independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Irish student to launch eight-month record-breaking bid to row across the Pacific

Undated handout photo issued by Oceans Project of science student Susannah Cass, 25, who will launch a record-breaking attempt to row across the Pacific Ocean next year. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday December 27, 2013. See PA story IRISH Pacific. Photo credit should read: Oceans Project/PA Wire

NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Susannah Cass, 25, who will launch a record-breaking attempt to row across the Pacific Ocean next year.

A science student will launch a record-breaking attempt to row across the Pacific Ocean next year.

Susannah Cass, 25, based in Dublin, will brave tropical heat, ocean storms and, potentially, sharks in a daring attempt to reach Australia by next December as part of the first female pairs team to cross the world's largest sea.

They will promote science education, with lessons broadcast on the internet from their cabin.

She joins neuropsychologist Sarah Weldon in the epic adventure, for which they leave California in June. The adventurers will row in two-hour shifts, 24 hours a day, through some of the most remote areas of the planet.

Ms Cass is an ecologist who will carry out research and teach science live from the boat. She is in the final year of a doctoral programme at Trinity College Dublin.

She said she hopes to live up to the adventurous spirit of figures like Everest mountaineer George Mallory who died during the attempt.

"The Pacific row is undoubtedly that once-in-a-lifetime chance. I only hope we're slightly more successful," she said.

The eight-month, 8,000-mile journey was organised through Oxford-based environmental education charity Oceans Project which was founded by Ms Weldon.

Their boat is 23ft-long and will carry everything they need to survive.

The pair will compete in the first Great Pacific Race, vying with 20 other crews to be the fastest from Monterey Bay on the US west coast to Honolulu in Hawaii in a competition expected to take up to 55 days of non-stop rowing.

After a fortnight of rest, repairing the boat and restocking supplies they will set a course for Cairns in Australia's north-east, entirely alone and unsupported, and vulnerable to the whim of passing sharks.

Ms Cass has a degree in natural sciences from Cambridge University and has been at Trinity since 2009. She is studying how farming systems which use crops like beans to enrich the soil with peas and beans might be affecting other plants and animals.

"It is about designing farming systems to be as efficiently sustainable as possible by working with wildlife rather than trying to ignore or remove it," she said.

But she is equally comfortable when she abandons land. The athlete raced for Cambridge against Oxford in the 2009 Women's Boat Race and won a silver medal at the British Universities Regatta.

Their ocean-going vessel, Mr Toad, will have two small cabins allowing shelter from storms and doubling as their onboard "classroom".

Access to the online resource will be provided to thousands of underprivileged children nominated by the Thai Children's Trust and Kaya Volunteer.

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