Four women made history and became the first all-black women’s rowing team to cross the Atlantic Ocean, just in time for Black History Month.
Elvira Bell, Christal Clashing, Samara Emmanuel and Kevinia Francis spoke to InsideEdition.com about competing in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, in which up to 30 teams row more than 3,000 miles from the Canary Islands to Antigua
“We literally rowed into black history month. We feel proud to be not only Antiguans but a part of the black race,” Emmanuel said.
It took them 47 days, eight hours and 25 minutes to make the trip, which they said wasn’t easy.
“It was tough at times. It was fun at times. There were a lot of mixed emotions,” Emmanuel said. “You have to pretty much survive on your own out there.”
The women had never rowed before the trip and only had nine months to train. They responded to a call for a female team to represent Antigua. And they were chosen.
The group set out on their journey on Dec.12, 2018. They ate dehydrated food the entire trip and rowed in two- to three-hour shifts with minimal sleep.
As black women who rowed the same route of the transatlantic slave trade, they realize the magnitude of their accomplishment.
“We are very aware of the historic nature of this row,” Clashing said. “We’re aware that it’s the slave trade route that we were coming across and we were very mindful of our ancestors and we spoke about it every day. It was definitely not lost on us and it was something we really appreciated.”
They made it to Antigua on Jan. 30, 2019, and were greeted by thousands of people. The government shut down and school was closed as many gathered to welcome the women home. The team placed 13th in the race.
“We expected to have a hearty welcome but we didn’t expect the whole country to shut down,” Clashing said. “It was overwhelming.”
Seeing the national flags as they rowed in and the crowds of people was “amazing” for the team, they said. After such a long journey they were just glad to be home.
“It was a mixture of relief joy and happiness. Finally it was over,” Francis said.
The team’s goal was to raise $150,000 for their chosen charity, Cottage of Hope, which offers residency to abused, neglected and orphaned young girls.
The women, three of whom are mothers, hope their journey inspires others to go out and live their dreams.
“I just want little black girls, black boys, everybody to know that they can do anything they can do anything they want to. Believe even when others don’t believe,” Emmanuel said.
Asked if they plan on joining the race again next year, they said they are not opposed to it and may even participate other types of competitions.
“There are a lot of adventure sports out there that black persons and black women are not involved in so we don’t mind being pioneers across the board,” Clashing said.