Former UW rower set to race 2,400 miles across Pacific Ocean, raise awareness for climate change

SEATTLE -- For nearly a year Eliza Dawson’s day has begun the same way. She starts every morning walking out oars and her boat from the Seattle Rowing Center warehouse to the water.

Her early morning workout from the Lake Washington Ship Canal to the shores of Lake Union is all in preparation for the ultimate test across the Pacific Ocean.

"I don’t think there’s anything that will compare to this journey exactly. I think it's going to be a whole different world with rowing all day and night constantly," the 22-year-old said.

Dawson is talking about participating in The Great Pacific Race. It's a rowing race from Monterrey, California to Honolulu, Hawaii -- approximately 2,400  miles.

That's quite the contrast for the former UW rower and NCAA champion who now has a much bigger goal: raise awareness for climate change and break a world record in the process.

"Growing up in Port Townsend -- it’s a big boating community. You got lots of wooden boats, lots of big schooners," described Dawson.

Except there won’t be a sail on the boat she'll be rowing across the Pacific Ocean. The “Red Ripple” has no motor.

It will be entirely human powered by Dawson along with three women from the United Kingdom and Brazil. Embodying their global commitment to impact climate change through their team "Ripple Effect".

"We’re each going to be rowing two-hour shifts and there’s two seats in the boat to row at a time -- so we’ll be resting two of us and two of us will be rowing constantly," described Dawson. "The most we’re ever going to be sleeping is two hours in between rowing shifts."

Their goal isn’t just to finish, but to do so in record time. All while shining light on plastic pollution and the need for political environmental action.

"The current world record for an all-female crew of four stands at 50 days," said Dawson. "I think that loving the environment is a really great way to care about the climate.... I think for myself, growing up here, loving to do outdoor sports. All of these things have really embedded an appreciation for our environment and how important it is to protect it."

That’s why she plans to document the entire journey, including their trek through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

"It’s something that we don’t usually see and we’re going to spending days going through it," said Dawson, who plans to study environmental science at Stanford University in the fall. "It’s going to be a huge floating mass of plastic and fishing net and all sorts of things right in the ocean."

Dawson hopes that much like their team name their journey will create a ripple effect to spread action.

"We’ll spread a ripple around the world of other people being inspired to take on big adventures and take on action too," said Dawson.

The Great Pacific Race was set to start June 2nd, but was postponed to June 6th because of weather conditions.

You can track her and all the teams progress here.

You can also donate to Eliza's team and track their journey from the boat on her website. 

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