Olympic rower Debbie Flood supports student’s round-GB challenge

Roehampton PhD student Sarah Weldon, who is preparing to become the first person ever to row around Great Britain solo, has officially launched her boat at the huge Technopop show in Stratford, East London, with help from Olympic rower Debbie Flood.

Posted: 8 October 2014

image for news story Olympic rower Debbie Flood supports student’s round-GB challenge
Sarah Weldon, left with Olympic rower Debbie Flood and her boat.
Sarah 38, will begin a PhD, into the effects of calorific stress on ocean rowers, this month. Her five metre long fibreglass boat will contain equipment to record blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, mental condition and other data to show how her body reacts to rowing up to 15 hours a day. Some of the equipment is used by Nasa on the International Space Station.

The futuristic-looking boat includes a sleeping and storage area, plus space for Sarah to store equipment to keep in touch with children around the world who are following her expedition. She will launch from Henley-on-Thames in May 2015 and is due to finish there in September 2015 after having rowed around 3,000 nautical miles.

At the launch, Sarah explained how she was inspired by children in Georgia. She told how she would be wearing ‘smart’ shorts which recorded every move her body made, and would use other technology to monitor her sleep patterns.

Sarah said: “The excitement is really building up now. It’s going to be a huge strain physically and psychologically, but I know at the end of it I’ll have completed an enormous challenge and created so much information to study how our bodies react to extreme pressures.

“The research I’ll do at Roehampton will make a difference to others living and working in remote environments, which I’m really proud to be doing. I’m looking forward to working with some of the most advanced researchers to help shape my findings too; it will keep the row alive well after I’ve got out of the water.”

During the launch, Sarah also unveiled Olympic rower Debbie Flood as patron of her expedition, named the Great British Viking Quest. Her aim is to re-trace the oar strokes of Viking seafarers, to create better understanding of the oceans and to bring science, technology engineering and maths education to life for students in London and worldwide.

Dr Caroline Ross, Head of the Department of Life Sciences at the University of Roehampton said: “Sarah’s ocean row proves research at Roehampton involves dealing with real-world environments as well as studying theory. This is an exciting project, and the whole university is right behind her and will be following her progress.

“Through our Sport and Exercise Research Centre we will be using state-of-the-art lab equipment to analyse her mental and physiological fitness before the row as a benchmark against the data she records on the water. When she returns that information will form the starting for what will be a significant study of how the body reacts to specific pressures.”

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