Michelle Lee

“Start thinking you can and you will!”

In February 2019, Michelle Lee became the first Australian woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean – a mammoth journey of 4700km.

The 46 year old was competing in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, one of the world’s toughest nautical races and the ultimate test in mental and physical strength and endurance.

Michelle set off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands and finished 68 days later, rowing into English Harbour in Antigua in the Caribbean. Throughout the trip she endured extreme conditions, including wild weather and swell, isolation, blisters upon blisters, sea sores and sickness, and sleep deprivation, and lost a whopping 14kg. She rowed from 5am until 10pm each day and at night slept in a small compartment in her boat.

“I had holes in my fingers from gripping the oars and massive callouses on my hands,” Michelle says. “I had sores on my bottom as well from 12 hours in the seat. I had toothaches and ear aches, which I managed to fix with a bit of self-help — three courses of antibiotics. All of it made me realise how vulnerable I was. It was terribly confronting and frightening at times.”

In completing the journey she also became the first Australian woman to row solo across any ocean. While challenging her personal limits was a primary goal, Michelle also set herself the task of raising money for The Sanctuary, a crisis centre in Sydney’s north-west for women and children fleeing domestic violence.

In 2019, Michelle became the Australian Geographic Adventurer of the Year.