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Ditton in San Francisco with the boat she intends to row across the pacific. The vessel is being refitted in Anacortes, Washington. (Photo: Jeff Singer)

I liked to fly at 30 knots plus. In 2008, a Danish Olympic rower invited me to join her in rowing the Atlantic. “Me? Row an ocean? You haven’t even met me!” I said. I was a sailor, not an athlete. I didn’t have muscles for rowing, although on more than one occasion I was forced to row a dinghy when the outboard conked. The only time I’d been in a gym was in the run-up to a modelling gig in New York in 2006. “Fake running, fake cycling, fake climbing stairs, fake carrying jerrycans of diesel…” is my summary. But a seed had been sown. I was curious as to what it was like to spend that much time at sea in a small boat, so close to the water. Later, I did row the Atlantic with a policeman as my partner, from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Antigua in the Caribbean, in 2010. I self-funded my part from “danger money” I’d received for delivering a Gunboat 48 catamaran from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi, which took me past the pirate zone near Somalia - something I would never do again. My brother joked that I was rowing with a policeman because I was under the witness protection program (I wasn’t). The policeman and I had only one thing in common: the desire to row the Atlantic. It was barely enough. I called the Atlantic row my crosstraining in preparation for the Barcelona World Race, a non-stop, double-handed, round-the-world race on 60’ monohulls —a race I planned to enter next. I wanted to rig the boat with load sensors and funnel the existing data streams (wind speed, wind angle, angle of heel, rudder angle…) through a synthesizer, so that the boat could conduct its own symphony orchestra. It was a highly ambitious project that saw me spend time with Brian Eno (the forefather of ambient music), Thomas

Dolby (who created the polyphonic ring tone for Nokia), and the electronics engineer from Duran Duran. It was a rare time in that the organizers of the Barcelona World Race were matching sailors with sponsors – Neutrogena with Ryan Breymaier and Boris Herrmann; GAES Centros Auditivos with Dee Caffari and Anna Corbella and the creative side of my entry application meant I didn’t get taken seriously. “Oh Lia,” said Barcelona Race Director Denis Horeau regretfully when we finally met at the start of the 2010 race. I was in Barcelona for the December race start, but working for Alex Thomson Racing/Hugo Boss. For 10 days, I was Alex’s videographer, working alongside hired French photographer Christophe Launay. A year later, I discovered Christophe was my stalker. Or rather, Christophe and his various personalities were my stalkers. Hurricane Kyle in 2002 was, at most, a harrowing four-day experience. Being stalked has lasted more than seven years. In 2011, I disappeared from the sailing world and moved from the United Kingdom to Spain where I quietly wrote a book. Bloomsbury had commissioned me to write the next in their 50 Adventures series. The book 50 Water Adventures To Do Before You Die! is now available in English and German.

CRACKING THE PACIFIC I did not have a religious upbringing, but I have always believed in the God of Yachting (the GoY). Need a holiday and can’t afford one? GoY sends me the offer of a transatlantic cruise as a speaker. Need to get off a Spanish island and back into the world of sailing? GoY sends me the offer of a Chris White catamaran delivery from Auckland, New Zealand to Valdivia, Chile.

Below Left to Right: Ditton underway off the coast of California, ideal preparation for the Pacific voyage ahead (photo: Alex Sher); Training for the journey - if you're going to be rowing 10 hours a day for months, you're going to need all the strength you can get physically and mentally. (Photo: Jenn Heflin).

solo. I will turn 40 years old at sea.

UNORTHODOX BEGINNING Ten years ago, if you had asked me if I saw ocean rowing in my future, I would have cried with laughter. I breathed to sail the latest and greatest multihulls. My passion was for boats that were like planes, winged leviathans that skimmed the water surface with incredible speed.



Profile for Northwest Yachting

Northwest Yachting August 2019  

The best of boating lifestyle in the Pacific Northwest - featuring a trip to the Kenai Peninsula aboard a classic 80' Burger yacht, the inte...

Northwest Yachting August 2019  

The best of boating lifestyle in the Pacific Northwest - featuring a trip to the Kenai Peninsula aboard a classic 80' Burger yacht, the inte...