“Adventure is an attitude and a catalyst that gives us a drive to begin to achieve more in life and make the most of our natural potential.”

Debra Searle

Arctic Circle

For four years I had dreamt of putting together an all-female team to complete a ski expedition in the Arctic.  I partnered with automotive company LeasePlan and nearly 1/3rd of their female employees applied for a place on the team.  After a selection weekend on Dartmoor and 6 months of training, 13 women from LeasePlan completed a traverse of Baffin Island – they were transformed from desk-bound office workers to polar explorers!

Rowing The Atlantic

I was heralded “…Britain’s latest sporting heroine” (The Times) when the media worldwide went crazy for the story of the 5ft4″ petite novice rower (me!) who rowed solo across the Atlantic after my then husband, a 6ft5″ top-level club oarsman, was rescued from our boat after developing an uncontrollable fear of the ocean. With no safety boat, the risks were enormous but I focussed on the words ‘Choose Your Attitude’ to keep me going.

Yukon River Quest

The producer of the award winning BBC series ‘Extreme Lives’ contacted me after my Atlantic row to find out if they could film my next expedition. So I joined forces with old friend Bruce Parry (of BBC ‘Tribe’ fame) to take part in the world’s longest canoe race – The Yukon River Quest – just south of the Arctic Circle in Canada. We were the first ever British team to enter.

English Channel Challenge

After 10 months of training at 6.30am on the River Thames and weekends at the coast, the day finally arrived. On Saturday 25th August 2007 18 paddlers and one helm set an unofficial world record as the fastest and first ever all-female crew to Dragon Boat across the English Channel. The Sisterhood completed the crossing in just 3 hours 42 minutes, only 12 minutes behind The Brotherhood – the team we had a healthy rivalry with!

The Monte Carlo Rally Historique

The Monte Carlo Rally Historique is legendary and eccentric! The 1969 Peter Cook and Dudley Moore comedy ‘Monte Carlo or Bust’ perfectly captured this – lying, cheating and bumbling their way across Europe. It’s not about gadgets or v8 engines. It’s about historic cars with no heating, icy mountain roads, hitting snow banks, flying around hairpin descents to avoid time penalties, navigating with paper maps and not falling asleep at the wheel despite being awake for days.

L’Etape Du Tour

L’Étape followed the exact route of Stage 15 of the 2007 Tour de France in the Pyrenees Mountains. The stage was a classic Pyrenean mountain stage with 5 mountain cols. But this was not ridden over a series of days. The whole lot had to be ridden in less than 12 hours. I completed it in 11hrs 39mins. Over 7,000 cyclists started but almost half did not finish it. Less than 100 starters were women!

Sailing Around Antarctica

I joined Team Pindar for the Southern Ocean leg of the Global Challenge Round The World Yacht Race, sailing against the prevailing winds and tides. It gave me my first rounding of the infamous Cape Horn and my second Christmas at sea. Completing headsail changes while constantly being washed down the deck by freezing cold walls of water was AWESOME. The Southern Ocean made the Atlantic seem like a millpond though!

Representing My Country

All those years canoeing and kayaking made the transition to Dragon Boats quite easy and I was very quickly selected for the Great Britain Team. It was a dream come true as I had always wanted to represent my country in a sport. The European Championships in Rome were first, followed by the World Championships in Nottingham 2 years later. I’m so enormously proud of my medals – 1 gold, 3 silver and 4 bronze.

The Vogalonga, Venice, Italy

The Vogalonga is a giant annual May Bank Holiday spectacle, a colourful pageant in which thousands of vessels of every kind race 32 km around Venice’s lagoons and canals. With tiny kayaks jostling for space with gondolas, dragon boats, outriggers, fours, eights, sculls, skiffs and traditional Venetian rowing boats, and with the ornate bridges and balconies teaming with spectators, it is the Italian equivalent to Spain’s Running With The Bulls.