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Fab four gear up for Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge

Four Pembrokeshire women are training to become the first all-female Welsh crew to complete the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, crossing the Atlantic in a small rowing boat.

Merched y Mor -Women of the Sea- is a four-piece rowing team made up of Denise Leonard, Helen Heaton, Liz Collyer and Heledd Williams.

The women plan to take on a 3,000 mile transatlantic row, in one of the toughest races on earth, facing up to 20 foot waves and rowing through the day and night.

Although Helen and Heledd are experienced rowers, Denise hadn’t rowed in 20 years, and this is Liz’s first rowing challenge ever.

They’ll embark on an unaided row across open sea from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean. Working in shifts, rowing all day, every day to get to the finish line. They will leave in December 2025 and plan to arrive around 45 days later in January 2026.

Tivyside Advertiser: Heledd, Denise and Helen training in Solva. Heledd, Denise and Helen training in Solva. (Image: Dan Phillips)


So far they are the only Welsh, all-female crew to register for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in 2025.

If they make it, they will join the ranks of an elite group of athletes. More people have gone into space than have rowed across this treacherous stretch of sea.

All four women have different reasons and inspirations for completing the challenge but are united in the desire to do something extraordinary and to show that nothing, not age, gender or fear can stop people from achieving great things once they put their minds to it.

“I’m doing this to show my children what can be achieved if you take a chance in life and are brave enough to try and for all women who can think of a million reasons why it shouldn’t be them,” said university lecturer Denise.

Grandmother Helen admits that she is concerned about lack of sleep, being in the confined cabin space and about great white sharks, but knows that by the time she gets to the Caribbean her grandchildren will be old enough to understand what she has done.

So far, the four have achieved great things here in the UK; coming third in the Great River Procession in London this summer and second in the challenging Ramsey Island Race.

Tivyside Advertiser: The fabulous four (plus coxswain) out training. The fabulous four (plus coxswain) out training. (Image: Dan Phillips)

However, they still need to overcome one of their biggest pre-race challenges, raising between £60,000 and £65,000 to buy the boat that they will row across the Atlantic.

When they have finished the row, they will sell the boat on, splitting the proceeds between four chosen charities: the RNLI, Sea Trust, Action for Children and Popham Kidney Support.

Merched y Mor is looking for sponsors both big and small, as well as support in kind, to help them achieve their dreams and to raise money for these four important charities.

To find out more about the team and how you can help, visit

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