All-ladies crew disqualified after rowing 3,000 miles across Atlantic

The four Dutchess of the Sea crew in face masks, pink vest tops and blue shorts

The Dutchess of the Sea crew - Credit: Atlantic Campaigns

Just imagine that you’ve entered the toughest rowing race in the world and rowed 3,000 miles across the Atlantic in extreme conditions from San Sebastian de La Gomera to arrive in English Harbour, Antiqua, to be told: “You’re disqualified.”

That was the decision conveyed to the Dutch all-ladies crew ‘Dutchess of the Sea’ after being at sea for 54 days, 20 hours, 12 minutes.

The Dutchess of the Sea crew stood on rocks

The Dutchess of the Sea crew - Credit: Atlantic Campaigns

They were competing in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge organised by Atlantic Campaigns. 

In a statement, Atlantic Campaigns stated: “After allowing the crew time to address their disqualification Atlantic Campaigns would like to clarify the situation. ‘Dutchess of the Sea’ improvised a sail to give them additional speed.

"Earlier today we met with the crew to discuss the situation.

"All TWAC crews are required to submit their video footage after the race, it was here that we noticed the sail.  It was constructed from a bed sheet, tied onto the safety lines and raised using long-handled solar panel cleaner. It is clearly acting as a sail.

"During the discussion the crew admitted that they had constructed this to be used as a sail intended to help them go faster. It is clearly stated in the race rules that this is not allowed and results in disqualification.

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"Atlantic Campaigns have not taken this decision lightly. Rules, safety standards and the welfare of our crews are paramount. 

"The crew still crossed the Atlantic Ocean and we are supporting them and providing the care a challenge like this demands.

"Questions, insinuations and negative comments do not help any parts in this matter. We kindly request the public to respect the fact that our team has just finished a 3,000-miles crossing, they are tired and devastated. Thank you.”

In response the ‘Dutchess of the Sea’ remarked: “Dear followers, dear family and friends, most of you have probably heard that we have been disqualified from the race.

"Somewhere during the race, tired and overcome by bad luck, a moment arose where we wanted to convert the negative vibe into something positive.

"We chose to use a sheet to construct a sail in an attempt to gain a bit of speed and turn misery into playing around. 

"We realise that we acted wrong and that putting up a sheet that was tied to the safety rails and held up by the solar panel washer is against the rules.

"We handed our video footage to Atlantic Campaigns and it shows us using the improvised sail. We then discussed this with them after our arrival and we agreed that we had broken the rules and attempted to gain an unfair advantage.

"Though we have been disqualified from the race we still crossed the ocean and are proud of what we have achieved.  

We wish to keep things positive. Most importantly, we raised more than 65,000 Euros for ALS Netherlands and the Plastic Soup Foundation.”

Frank Rothwell finished in a time of 56 days, 3 hours, 41 minutes to become the oldest person to row solo, unassisted...

Frank Rothwell finished in a time of 56 days, 3 hours, 41 minutes to become the oldest person to row solo, unassisted across the Atlantic Ocean - Credit: Atlantic Campaigns

This all took the shine off the arrival of two solo rowers, 59-year-old Grant Blakewell and 70-year-old Frank Rothwell.

Frank finished in a time of 56 days, 3 hours, 41 minutes to become the oldest person to row solo, unassisted across the Atlantic Ocean! 

However, this record is according to Atlantic Campaigns but I am aware of a 72 year-old, Graham Waters, who rowed the Atlantic in 2020. 

But we must take nothing away from Frank’s achievement which is incredible.

Atlantic Campaigns said: “A huge congratulations Frank - not only have you completed The World’s Toughest Row but also raised a phenomenal amount of money for charity!”

Frank had over 5,000 supporters and has so far has raised £650,000 of his £1m target for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

He always aimed to arrive by Valentine's Day to meet with his wife of 50 years. 

As he stood on the arrival podium he did a tuneful rendition of The Wanderer.

Frank has been an ardent sailor having circumnavigated the world a few times. Despite having come through prostate cancer and a knee replacement he took on the rowing challenge in fine style.

Also arriving in the shadow of the disqualification and the record breaking Frank Rothwell was Grant Blakeway in the revolutionary boat 'Melokuhle' designed and built by Leven Brown in Scotland.

Both he and Frank had been in a close tussle across the Atlantic with Frank leading for most of the way but in the end Grant pipped Frank by 12 minutes.

Frank Rothwell at sea in his boat

Frank Rothwell - Credit: Atlantic Campaigns

Results to date: 

1   Row4Cancer (O) NL 32d 22h 13m 

2   On Shoulders of Giants (R) GB 35d 6h 42m    

3   Latitude 35 (R) US 36d 5h 10m    

4   HPF Atlantic (R) GB 37d 1h 46m    

5   Oardacity (R) GB 40d 6h 35m    

6   For a Fitter Planet (R) GB 42d 3h 47m    

7   Atlantic Dutchessess (R) NL 43d 4h 56m  

8   Generation Gap (R) GB 45d 21h 0m    

9   The Bristol Gulls (R) GB 46d 7h 50m    

10 Team Antigua Pairs (R) Antigua 47d 6h 57m    

11 Wave Warrior (R) GB  49d 10h 40m    

12 Force Genesis (R) GB 50d 22h 16m    

13 Atlantic Dragon (R) W 51d 3h 59m    

14 Atlantic Antics (R) GB 52d 4h 57m  

15 Atlantic Titan (R) GB 53d 3h 20m    

16 Dutchess of the Sea (R) NL 54d 20h 12m   (Disqualified)  

17 Melokuhle (O) ZA 56d 3h 29m    

18 Alzheimer's Research (R) GB 56d 3h 41m   

Still to finish:  

19 Atlantic Solo (R) GB  Estimated finish time: 71d 2h 0m 47s   

20 Rudderly Mad (O) GB  Estimated finish time: 81d 1h 39m 19s   

21 Spoarting Chance (O) GB  Estimated finish time: 82d 1h 15m 39s


Frank Rothwell rowed across the Atlantic Ocean in a time of 56 days, 3 hours, 41 minutes

Frank Rothwell rowed across the Atlantic Ocean in a time of 56 days, 3 hours, 41 minutes - Credit: Atlantic Campaiigns

Grant Blakeway

Grant Blakeway, after rowing across the Atlantic Ocean - Credit: Atlantic Campaigns

Grant Blakeway finishes his row across the Atlantic

Grant Blakeway finishes his row across the Atlantic - Credit: Atlantic Campaigns

Celebrations as Grant Blakeway finishes his row across the Atlantic

Celebrations as Grant Blakeway finishes his row across the Atlantic - Credit: Atlantic Campaigns

Grant Blakeway during his row across the Atlantic

Grant Blakeway during his row across the Atlantic - Credit: Atlantic Campaigns