A personal shopper originally from Alberta, Tori Holmes had never rowed a boat before, but in 2006 that didn’t stop her from jumping at the chance to compete in a 3,000-mile Atlantic rowing race from Spain to the Caribbean.
She was 21, adventurous, and up for a challenge.
At an event called Interesting Vancouver, Sept. 28, Holmes will share how she and her then boyfriend survived the arduous journey when more than half of their competitors failed, making her the youngest woman in history to row across the Atlantic.
Holmes is one of eight Vancouverites who will share stories about their passions at the event at the Museum of Vancouver. Lloyd Bernhardt, tech entrepreneur and co-founder of Ethical Bean Coffee, will speak about how adoption influenced his ideas about capitalism, PR professional Ron Shewchuck, who’s known as Rockin’ Ronnie in the barbecue world, will use the lessons he’s learned behind the grill to fire up members of organizations on how they can help employees feel more engaged, and Corrine Lea, owner of the Rio Theatre and Scout Boutique will talk about how bureaucracy limits art, culture and innovation in B.C.
Interesting Vancouver co-organizer Mark Busse says he has no intention of following in Holmes’s wake and undertaking any feats of extreme athleticism.
“But I’m curious as to her motivation, what she got out of it, how she overcame that challenge and how that fits into her life,” he said.
Holmes and her ex-boyfriend Paul Gleeson had eight months to raise the 90,000 Euros to fund the trip. In the meantime, she learned astro navigation, sea survival and how to row.
“I kind of showed up to the Olympics as random Joe,” she said. “Everybody else was like a national or Olympic-level rower.”
Holmes and Gleeson survived the worst weather recorded in history for that time of year, including two tropical storms and a hurricane, physical pain that included thirst, skin lesions and the effects of sleep deprivation from trading off rowing duties every two hours, 24 hours a day for 86 days.
“The hardest shift was probably from 2 to 4 [a.m.] You’re exhausted, there’s no natural light, so it’s the kind of blackness outside that you can’t even see your hand in front of you,” Holmes said. “You get that knock and you know you have to go out into 50-foot waves and you’re sitting there by yourself. It’s terrifying.”
During those two-hour sessions Holmes taught herself new skills.
“Before I left, if I was upset, maybe I called a friend or maybe I watched TV, or nowadays people, you know the gap time, you look on your phone or you look on Facebook, you distract yourself,” she said. “And I didn’t have that choice so I had to really learn to cope.”
Busse hopes the event will attract the curious from all walks of life. He says only a few tickets remain for students and MOV members. Proceeds after costs are covered will be donated to the museum. For more information, see interestingvancouver.com.