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Kirriemuir’s Robyn taking on 3,000-mile Atlantic challenge in world’s toughest row

Teacher Robyn Hart-Winks is a former Highland Dancing world champion who is part of a crew of three women preparing to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a race known as the world's toughest row.

Robyn Hart-Winks from Kirriemuir is in training for the 'world's toughest row'. Image: Supplied
Robyn Hart-Winks from Kirriemuir is in training for the 'world's toughest row'. Image: Supplied

Robyn Hart-Winks is the shy wee Angus lassie who has risen to every challenge she’s ever faced.

As a Highland dancer she rose from a quiet five-year-old to become a world champion.

And when Robyn switched sports to rowing, the Kirriemuir athlete claimed success in a Scotland and GB vest everywhere from the US to China – and Henley regatta in between.

But nothing compares to the epic adventure the 29-year-old teacher is preparing for later this year.

In her most extreme race on the oars, Robyn faces a 3,000-mile journey across the hostile Atlantic Ocean.

Robyn, with University of London rowing club pals Louise Cox and Jordan Cole-Hossain, is taking on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

Robyn Hart-Winks from Kirriemuir taking on Atlantic rowing race.
Robyn (left) with Tidewaves teammates Louise Cox and Jordan Cole-Hossain and Louise Cox. Image: Supplied

It’s dubbed the ‘world’s toughest row’ – and for good reason.

The Tidewaves, as the team have called themselves, will face waves the size of buildings, shark-infested waters and Mother Nature at her fiercest during three months or more in the open ocean.

They will make the crossing in a £60,000 state-of-the art rowing boat.

Rower Robyn-Hart Winks from Kirriemuir.
Robyn has enjoyed rowing success at elite level. Image: Supplied

And Robyn says she cannot wait to be on the water.

“It will be the toughest thing I’ve ever done,” she said.

“It’ll be hard, no doubt. But all you can do out there is row – and that’s the bit I know how to do.”

Between now and the event start, the crew face the equally daunting mountain of hitting a £50,000 sponsorship target.

The challenge

The race starts in La Gomera, a small island in the Canaries off the west coast of Africa.

And it ends 3,000 miles across the Atlantic in the tourist paradise of Antigua.

The world's toughest row.
The route facing competitors in the world’s toughest row. Image: Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge

A 25-foot long, five-foot wide boat weighing just under a tonne will be the team’s home for the duration.

On the epic adventure, Robyn and her fellow rowers will be faced with:

  • 40-foot waves
  • Shark-infested waters
  • 40 degree heat
  • Shipping lanes
  • Exhaustion and hallucinations
  • 20% loss of body weight
  • Blisters and salt sores

They will need to consume 20,000 daily calories to fuel their bodies.

And the journey will be a relentless cycle of row, rest and repeat.

Robyn said: “Most of the time we’ll have two people on the oars and it will be a cycle of two hours on, one hour off.

“If we need all three of us to be rowing against some spiky conditions then we’ll do that.

“In theory we’ll avoid the hurricanes, but it’s definitely the most extreme thing I’ve ever done.”

Kirriemuir rower Robyn Hart-Winks
Robyn Hart-Winks on the oars. Image: Supplied

She is taking a sabbatical from her role at Grove Park Primary School in Chiswick, London.

“I’m at the point now where I’m ready to get out there and do it,” said Robyn.

“It has been so much admin, emails and trying to get sponsorship. For me that’s he hard part – it’s a huge challenge, but for me being on the oars is easy – you have nothing else to think about.”

Sponsorship quest

The Tidewaves hope to net big name sponsors and Robyn would love to see Scottish names on the boat.

A donations link has been set up on the team’s website.

“We also have a 250 Club which involves a £250 donation.

“Their names will be on the side of the boat and that’ll be a constant reminder to us on the journey of the people who have helped us get there.”

You can sign up to the 250 Club at

Robyn Hart-Winks from Kirriemuir is in a team taking on an Atlantic rowing challenge.
Jordan Cole-Hossain, Louise Cox and Robyn hart-Winks beside the rowing boat which will take than across the Atlantic. Image: Supplied.

The women are raising awareness and funds for a trio of organisations which offer sporting opportunities for young people.

“Sports Aid Scotland is one of them and I am determined to make this challenge something that might help other young people.

“For me it doesn’t matter what the sport is, or what level you do it to, as long as you have the opportunity.”

Highland dancing a first step to success

Robyn feels her journey explodes the myth that rowing is an elite sport.

And she attributes her own drive to the lessons learned as a wee girl in a new town.

Robyn Hart-Winks
Robyn’s Highland dancing journey began as a five-year-old. Image: Supplied

Ten years on from starting at the age of five, her drive and talent took Robyn to the world juvenile Highland Dancing title in 2009.

She even charmed Britain’s Got Talent guru Simon Cowell as part of a dance team who wowed the show’s Glasgow auditions.

Robyn Hart-Winks highland dancing.
Robyn (second from left) leaps her way to the world juvienlie Highland dancing title in 2009. Image: Supplied

“When I went to university I took up rowing. It’s often considered an elite sport, but I didn’t see it that way.

“It was just something I wanted to try, and all of the good things dancing had taught me served me well.”

Robyn’s competitive rowing cv includes multiple British University Championship titles, a world indoor crown from Boston in 2016 and Henley women’s regatta success.

She represented Scotland in 2014, 2015 and 2019 at the Home International Regatta -winning gold in every event she entered.

Kirriemuir rower Robyn Hart-Winks
Robyn tasted glory with Team GB at the world beach spring finals. Image: Supplied

In 2019, Robyn was British Champion in the women’s solo and mixed two at the British Beach Sprints, the same year she delivered a double medal-winning performance for Team GB in the world event in China.

“I met Louise and Jordan through my rowing with University of London when I moved down her,” Robyn added.

“I’d always had this idea to do the Atlantic challenge, I know others who have done it, so when the space became available it felt like it was the right thing to do.

“But it’s like nothing I’ve ever done.

“There is so much to learn – but I can’t wait for it to happen.”