Five Royal Navy sailors will make history later this year as the first serving military women’s team to attempt to row the Atlantic Ocean.

The five – known collectively as the Valkyries – face 3,000 miles of open seas and competition from around three dozen other teams as they take on the World’s Toughest Row.

It’s the fourth time a Royal Navy team has taken part in the row in five years under the banner of the HMS Oardacious initiative which looks to support the mental health of fellow sailors and their families.

The five sailors – skipper Izzy Rawlinson (a marine engineer in submarines), mine clearance diver Ali Aindow, Aaby Aldridge who maintains survival equipment, pilot Lily-Mae Fisher and warfare specialist Nic Hall – plan to set off from San Sebastien de la Gomera in the Canaries on December 12… and row into Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua around five weeks later.

The team – who are also coached/managed by a female sailor, helicopter observer (navigator/sensors and weapons specialist) Alex Kelley – will row in shifts of two hours on, two hours off, all day every day.

The rowers will suffer salt sores, blisters, sleep deprivation, sea sickness, 40ft waves and scorching tropical sunshine as they push themselves to the limit – driven by the goal not merely of completing the epic challenge, but also of beating an all-female British Army team also taking part in the race.

Beyond the physical and mental strains the event will place on the team, above all the rowers hope it will inspire girls and young women.

“We hope to portray ordinary women doing something extraordinary and to showcase that as hard as something could be, tomorrow is a different day,” said skipper Izzy.

“If I could make someone’s life slightly better by them looking at me and thinking, if she can do it then I can get definitely out of this, I can definitely make it through to the other side, then that’s good enough for me.

“It gives us the opportunity to promote women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – and advocate for mental health, wellness and resilience.”

The Valkyries will use the same boat which helped a five-strong all-male Royal Navy team to victory in the 2023-24 race, Captain Jim.

The team are completely self-sufficient, their boat is stocked with food for up to 55 days and equipped with solar panels providing power to two batteries which supply all the essential equipment (including the all-important water maker – a mini reverse osmosis plant which makes fresh water from seawater).

As with the three previous incarnations of Oardacious, the rowers are looking to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing, building on achievements since 2019; to date, in conjunction with the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, the campaign has raised more than £200,000 for submariners and their families and will now be expanded to the broader naval family.

Over the next nine months, the rowers – who are peppered around naval bases across the UK – will train independently for the most part, as well as taking Captain Jim into the Atlantic at every opportunity.

To support the team you can donate:
Every penny raised will support Naval personnel and their families with mental health and wellbeing initiatives.