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Former UW rower racing across Pacific forced to cancel record attempt after crew sickness

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MONTERAY, Cali. —The former University of Washington student rowing across the Pacific Ocean to bring awareness to climate change has had to cancel her journey.

Twenty-two-year-old Port Townsend native Eliza Dawson and her three teammates from the UK and Brazil were attempting to row 2,400 miles to break a world record but had to cut the race short after the team’s skipper got sick.

Dawson’s team, “The Ripple Effect,” had been training for this opportunity to race across the East Pacific in “The Great Pacific Race”  for months. They had to pull out about a week in when teammate and team skipper 38-year Anna Kirkin of the UK made the decision to be transferred to a race support yacht nearby.  Kirkin was removed from the boat and later diagnosed with a kidney infection as a result of dehydration, hypoglycemia and hypothermia.

In a statement on their website, Chris Martin, race director for The Great Pacific Race, said: “We are disappointed to hear that Team Ripple Effect have decided to abandon their ocean row.  However, the decision has been made for the best of reasons. Each crew must take responsibility for their own actions and decisions when at sea and sometimes that means making difficult decisions like this.  The safety of our crews is our top priority and we are happy  to support the team in their safety decision.”

In a message to those following their journey, Dawson posted on her “Row4Climate” blog that the team had to steer their boat to the southwest five days into the race began after huge waves capable of capsizing the boat forced three of the four team members to row at a time.

Dawson told Q13 News’ Katie Boer earlier this spring that the team would be rowing in teams of two, with the additional two crew members resting and shifting every two hours.

Extreme conditions prevail on an entirely human-powered vessel, with 12 foot swells and very little rest time. At one point, the Port Townsend native said she rowed for 12 straight hours.

The team of rowers were trying to break the all-female crew world record, while passing through the Great Garbage Patch to raise awareness for climate change and plastic pollution in less then 50 days.

Dawson released the following statement on her blog:
“The last few days I’ve been in turmoil. I repeatedly feel like I’m in the wrong place. I think my heart is still lost out in the middle of the pacific, determinedly riding the big waves. While I am having trouble accepting that my ocean rowing dreams have come to a shattering halt, recent events have shed light on the gravity of Anna’s condition.”

Only three of the five original teams remain in The Great Pacific Race after another team’s boat capsized and two men had to be rescued by a passing cargo ship.

As for what’s next, Dawson remains determined to bring awareness to the impacts of climate change.

The first two weeks of July she plans to cycle 400 miles through the remote Alaskan and Canadian wilderness to get an up-close look at the receding glaciers.

Dawson begins work on her PhD at Stanford University this fall.

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