Because of the UK’s lockdown rules, Victoria didn’t experience her first on-water row until May, but she’ll be attempting to break the Guinness world record for the fastest woman to row solo across the Atlantic in February 2021 – under a year after her oar struck the water for the first time. To accomplish this, she will need to row over 5,000km from Gran Canaria to Port St. Charles, Barbados, in under 49 days, 7 hours and 15 minutes.
The solo row is of course a colossal challenge, underscored by the fact that no more than fifteen women have completed it to date. Daily life will consist of rowing for approximately twelve hours and sleeping for no more than six to allow for the time required to make drinking water, cook, clean, and carry out maintenance. The row will be unsupported, leaving Evans to enter the water to carry out any necessary repairs, all in an ocean not reputed for its lack of sharks, whales, and twelve-foot waves.
The motivation driving Evans to take on such a relentless challenge is to help inspire female athletes and to change the conversation around women’s sport. Having dealt with eating disorders and depression earlier in life, she discovered the positive effects of sport in her mid-20s and developed a drive to spread that message to women and girls. She’s hoping to raise over £50,000 for the charity Women in Sport, whose mission is to ensure that every woman and girl in the UK has the opportunity to experience the transformational rewards of sport.
“Sport is one of the most powerful vehicles for change,” she says, “but millions of women miss out because the industry is not designed by them, or marketed to them.” Women In Sport commissions research into this issue and looks to inspire change in both attitudes and policy. “We should be tackling the matter at an industry level,” Victoria says, “lobbying for changes in policy, culture and quotas to ensure that women’s voices help shape the future of sport, and that opportunities for women in sport vastly increase.”
Before trading the desk for the deck, Evans worked as a commercial lawyer at ITV, UEFA and Red Bull Media House. In these roles at the forefront of sports broadcasting she discovered a drive to help reformat the industry and make it more inclusive of women both in terms of participation and governance. As all lawyers will understand, balancing the demands of work with the brutal training programme required to row solo across the Atlantic proved a real challenge, and so Victoria handed her notice in and transitioned to full-time training from September.
Bird & Bird has sponsored Victoria to help provide equipment, supplies and cover the cost of training over the coming months. She continues to seek corporate partners to support her journey and that of women in sport – please see the links at the bottom of this article.
Jonathan Taylor QC, Partner and Joint Head of the International Sports Group at Bird & Bird, commented: “It’s an absolute pleasure to be supporting Victoria on her challenge to row solo across the Atlantic. We also fully support The Sea Change Sport campaign to make sport accessible to women and girls at every level, and believe sport would be better and stronger as a result. Victoria is showing that there are no limits to what women can achieve if given the opportunity.”
Victoria said: “To drive real change in this sector, investors and stakeholders have to be brave. In stepping forward to support the row during the incredibly difficult year we’ve had in 2020, Jonathan and all of the team at Bird & Bird are demonstrating their true support for equity in sport, they stand at the forefront of a vital cultural shift. It’s a pleasure to welcome them aboard.”