Sheffield daughter and dad duo make history with 3,800 mile row

A dad and daughter duo from Sheffield rowed into the history books by becoming the first team of their kind to row from Portugal to Antigua.

Thursday, 7th March 2019, 11:53 am
Updated Thursday, 7th March 2019, 11:58 am
Libby and John Beeden on their journey

Libby Beeden, aged 20, and her father John, 57, rowed 3,755 nautical miles over 91 days and four hours.

They battled extreme weather conditions, a few near-capsizes, sea sickness, sleep deprivation, blisters and aching muscles and joints to complete their journey which John described as a ‘wild ride’. 

Libby and John tackling waves

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In a post on his blog, which he updated daily, John said: “I’m tired, frustrated and as close to broken as I have ever been. Hopefully some sleep will rekindle my appetite for the fray.”

But the journey also brought great moments of father-daughter bonding and the ‘most amazing’ wildlife encounters including meeting flying fish, dolphins, turtles and a troupe of whales.

Libby said: “During my first three-hour shift, the dolphins were playing around the boat the entire time. I loved it but I was distracted and got a bit off course. I noticed that with about half an hour to go, and got back on track enough that dad wouldn’t notice. It was probably the best part of this trip so far.”

They took on the challenge in their beloved boat ‘Socks II’ - a ‘pure ocean rowing boat’ built not to take advantage of the wind, making every mile hard-earned.

They set off at the end of November from Portimao, Portugal, and arrived in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua, at the start of this month. When they arrived back on shore they headed straight to the showers before tucking into scrambled eggs and fresh fruit.

As well as becoming the first father and daughter ocean rowing team to row east to west from mainland Europe to Antigua, Libby is one of only a handful of women aged under 20 to have rowed an ocean. She is also believed to be the youngest woman in a pairs crew to row the Atlantic.

John had previously rowed the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Libby, meanwhile, was a rower in high school and after seeing her dad navigate the seas she decided to try it herself.

Taking it in turns to do shifts, they rowed for 24 hours a day as often as they could and when conditions were unsafe they took refuge in their small but cramped cabin.

John and Libby were both born in Sheffield and have since lived all over the world. One of John’s biggest achievements was rowing from the Canaries to Barbados just 15 months after having open heart surgery at the age of 49.

Visit to see the pair’s daily blogs.