UK woman battled 20ft waves and sharks to be youngest to solo cross the Atlantic

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She has battled 20ft waves, been tracked by sharks and come within minutes of colliding with tanker.

But today rower Jasmine Harrison is set to enter the record books as the youngest woman to make a solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.

The 21-year-old is due to complete the 3,000 mile journey from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua between 1.30pm and 3pm UK time.

Her epic voyage is part of the annual Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, which features 21 teams of up to five people crossing the ocean. There are eight solo competitors including her Rudderly Mad team.

Incredibly Jasmine, from Thirsk, North Yorks, only took up rowing in December 2019. “I’ve never rowed in my life,” said the part time swimming teacher. “I’ve done everything else, swimming, pentathlon, most standard sports. Just never rowing.

“But I’m quite good at picking different things up. If you show me how to do something, I can do it.”

Since setting off on December 12, Jasmine has rowed for a minimum of 12 hours a day, making an estimated 1.5 million oar strokes. She is unable to sleep for longer than two hours in case her 21ft boat, called Argo, veers off course.

In the early stages of the sportswoman’s journey, the weather was so bad she was blown back to where she had started from at the end of one gruelling day.

Jasmine has been tracked by sharks and had a near miss with a 750ft tanker which came within 1,000ft of her boat. It was only about six minutes before a collision occurred that Jasmine was able to alert the huge vessel to change course.

This week she capsized, injuring her left elbow, but was able to carry on the challenge. And her own boat can be a danger too – its rudder has hit her twice, leaving massive bruises.

“I will be very, very happy when she crosses that finish line,” said Jasmine’s mum Susan, who speaks to her every day via satellite phone. “She has taken it all in her stride – she went in with her eyes absolutely open.

“She attended all the courses and the training. She was expecting a lot, she has had a lot thrown at her but she’s nearly there.

“I know she is relishing these last few days, now that she can see the end is in sight, it’s still hard going but it’s amazing.”

Despite the tough times, Jasmine’s solo journey has been filled with a lifetime of amazing memories too, including swimming with a pod of 40 dolphins.

Burning 5,000 calories a day, she survives on ration packs, chocolate spread and peanut butter. She drinks 10 litres of water a day – plus an occasional shot of Dead Man’s Fingers Rum.

The swimming teacher is rowing one of two boats left to finish the challenge. The last part of her journey has seen her tackle the Sargasso Sea, home to fish and baby turtles but also to thick seaweed which can get tangled up in the boats.

The previous youngest woman to make a solo crossing across The Atlantic was American Katie Spotz, who was 22 when she completed the 3,000 mile row in 2010.

Jasmine said she was inspired to compete when she saw the event finish line in Antigua when she was on holiday in 2018. Completing the challenge became, she said, “my one true calling”.

“I didn’t want to run a marathon, I wanted to row,” she said. “It’s not just about the rowing itself, it’s more about the challenge itself of being out at sea on your own and dealing with loneliness, routine, physicality.”

Jasmine hopes to inspire others too: “So many people think, because you’re young and female, you can’t do something.

“You can achieve your dreams, as big or small. If you want it go get it.”

She funded her trip by working in her local pub and leisure centre, saving £30,000 and raising another £50,000 in sponsorship.

Any excess money will go to international disaster relief charity ShelterBox and the Blue Marine Foundation, which protects the health of the oceans.