Truly oar-some! Dorset duo is part of mixed gender crew rowing 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean

Bel Noyes: “It’s so easy to say no to taking part or that I’m scared but it’s also so easy to say yes. The way I see it it’s a no-brainer." Picture: Dorset Biz News.

By Andrew Diprose [email protected]

Published: June 20, 2023 | Updated: 20th June 2023

It’s set to be one of the biggest personal challenges undertaken by Bel Noyes – and she can’t wait.

The mother of two is part of Atlantic Fusion, attempting to be the first five-person mixed gender crew to row 3,000 miles unsupported across the Atlantic Ocean.

Bel, 51, will be joined by Dave Fassam – also from Dorset – Annika Israelsson, Molly Hemeter and Steven Haywood (skipper), in the world record bid.

It gets underway in December 2024 with all proceeds from the challenge going to the charity, Abbie’s Army, a children’s brain tumour research charity.

The team is now seeking corporate sponsors with global exposure guaranteed to take your company or brand into new waters.

Bel, a former Ladies Captain with Poole Gig Rowing Club, said: “Raising the funds feels more nerve-wracking than the actual challenge.

“The actual idea of rowing it, although it’s massive, is not that scary but now the clock is ticking.

“It’s more the fact that I just want to be so prepared.

“It’s trying to get the knowledge, retain the knowledge and drill the knowledge until it’s second nature.”

The Atlantic Fusion team.

Around 40 boats, including solos and doubles, are expected to take part in the World’s Toughest Row, previously known as the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

Organisers say ‘sleep deprivation, hallucinations, hunger and the ultimate test of body and mind will be balanced by sighting incredible marine life, witnessing the breaking of a new day and sunsets that cannot be viewed from land.’

Bel, who works in Poole’s Dr Feelgoods Tattoo Studio, said: “Steve, our skipper, started the ball rolling about a year ago.

“He used to do ultra triathlons, including running from Marble Arch in London to Dover, swimming to Calais and then cycling to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

“Steve was looking for a new challenge and living locally at the time.

“He found our club [Poole Gig Rowing Club] joined it and that’s how we got connected.

“Steve contacted me and you know when the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end?

“That’s how I felt.”

Overall, Atlantic Fusion is looking to raise £120,000-plus for the challenge, including a brand new boat.

Bel said: “It’s a massive task but the costings is the worst reason to say no.

“This is a race for people like me. It’s not an elite race.

“My husband said ‘go for it’ and it’s probably the only chance I’ll get.”

The teams will set out from La Gomera in the Canary Islands and then row to Antigua.

December is deliberately chosen to avoid the hurricane season.

Dick Fassam (left) and Skipper Steven Haywood.

Bel said: “The fastest crew this year was less than 35 days.

“The last one, a solo, came in at about 113 days.

“Ideally we’ll be between 40 and 50 days.

“It depends on the weather conditions and if anything goes wrong.

“A crew this year lost their rudder, another capsized but they were all safe, so things happen.

“Marlin [a fish with a spear-like snout or bill] attacks are also not uncommon.

“When I was following it this year you suddenly realise that it’s quite dangerous.

“It’s going to be hard physically but more mentally.

“We need to know everything, inside out, upside down, back to front with our eyes closed in the dark.”

All five members of Atlantic Fusion hold a Microsoft Teams call every fortnight.

Mollie and Annika are in London, Steve in Cambridgeshire and Bel and Dave in Dorset.

Later this year they will meet up in Devon for courses including navigation, VHF radio and sea survival.

Bel said: “Once that starts happening it’s going to see a lot more real.

“It is, at times, a little overwhelming.

“It’s so easy to say no to taking part or that I’m scared but it’s also so easy to say yes.

“The way I see it it’s a no-brainer as long as my husband is OK and he’s very supportive.”

  • Sponsorship opportunities range from buying one of the race oars to having your branding professionally wrapped on the boat. Full details at

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