An Ocean of opportunity

By: Editor In Chief
Fri 16 January,2015

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Katie Pattison-Hart

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Having faced a perilous Atlantic ocean rowing challenge, Katie Pattison-Hart has emerged a stronger woman, ready to motivate others to live their dreams and challenge themselves. Today she is a motivational and event speaker involved in charity campaigns, and is also a fashion designer-in the making with the brand Boho Princessa.

Based in Dubai since 2005, the British entrepreneur was part of the Row For Freedom team which received their Guinness Book of Record for their Two World Records being the first female five and the fastest females across the Atlantic. She didn’t know how to row before she signed up for this challenge, but believes that with the right attitude, dedication and hard work that anything is possible if you want it enough.

Katie was nominated for the 2012 Emirates Women of The Year Award for Row For Freedom and continued efforts in Dubai to raise awareness about human trafficking through the 27 million campaign.

Born in Brunei, Katie has a degree in financial economics and prior to her charity work and motivational speaking, she worked as a banker for an international bank. Apart from having a background in gymnastics and being a part-time model, the 34-year old has also tried extreme sports like Thai-boxing, bungee-jumping and high-board diving.

She shares her ocean story with us.

The sheer size and power of the Ocean becomes even more evident when you are in a small rowing boat with four other women, with no home comforts, no getting off, sea sickness, sleep deprivation, the fear of capsizing, a bucket as a toilet (with no privacy!), 50ft waves and no sight of land for 45 days…. 

We were rowing across the Atlantic Ocean with no outside assistance as a personal challenge and to raise awareness and funds for the fight against Human Trafficking.


The only limits we have are the ones we put on ourselves

We departed from the Canary Islands in 2011 aiming for Barbados, a 5,000km journey. More people have been to space or have climbed Everest than have successfully rowed an Ocean. A third of the people that attempt it fail.. It soon became clear that we needed to minimize the risks of failing by solid team-work and executing a clear action plan. We only had one seasoned rower in our team, the rest of us had to learn how to row. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you put your mind to it.

Fail to plan, plan to fail…

Failure was not an option for us. We had very clear communication in our team. It started on land 8 months before departure and was encouraged throughout the journey.  We spoke about issues and resolved them quickly, we could not afford for our time on the ocean to be interrupted by (unresolved) team problems, and they would only be magnified at sea where there would be no escape. Our team needed to be in harmony. It was of paramount importance that we were all mentally and physically strong.

We set our sights high, aiming to gain two World Records. We put personal differences to one side to achieve it and there was no room for any deviation from our goals.

Planning and preparation has always has been a huge part of my way of life. I visualize the end results that I want to achieve. I always invest my time putting action plans in place as to how to go about achieving my goals. Working at senior management level in a bank for most of my career taught me to start with a vision and a goal and break it down into daily actions that will help me achieve the overall vision and the final goal. I’ve seen a high number of small and medium sized businesses fail in their first two years as they failed to plan. This is such a crucial ingredient in the recipe for success.

Rowing shadow KTPH


I didn’t know how to row, I had to learn.  This only made me personally more determined to train hard and be regimented in my 3 times daily training schedule. The fear of not being my best was a huge part of my motivation. I don’t like to have regrets in life and I would hate to look back and think I could’ve done better. I’ve always dedicated my everything to my projects, work and relationships. Once I’ve decided to do something I am fully committed and I live, eat and breathe it.

To explore new oceans we need the courage to lose sight of land

Ocean rowing can be challenging not only physically but also mentally. The size and the power of the ocean can make you feel very insignificant.

We had no personal space or privacy on the boat which felt claustrophobic at times yet at the same time you can also feel incredibly isolated with only the company of each other for 45 days.

We lost sight of land after just two days of rowing. We had heard of people mentally “breaking down” once the sight of land was lost and we were aware that this could happen to any one of us. We consciously channeled our energies and adrenaline on the task in hand and got on with the grueling 12 hours of rowing each day. Any fear was turned into a positive energy to achieve our goals. I have never felt more ready to do something than I did the day we set off.

I believe that the mind, body and soul needs continuous growth. Stepping out of the comfort zone and learning something new feeds us with energy and shapes our character. When we master new skills or when we are exposed to new experiences we become more confident and capable individuals.

Don’t wait for the storm to pass, learn to dance in the rain.

Some things in life are like the strong currents and storms of the ocean and are out of our control and not always perfect timing.  One thing our team did very well whilst out on the ocean was maintaining a flexible approach, adapting to the many different challenges that were thrown our way. Our daily rowing efforts were often interrupted with problems that had to be tackled: our water maker stopped working, we had small leaks in the boat, our auto-steering broke. We worked together and were resourceful, using each team members’ strengths and finding solutions.

It was sometimes apparent that we had been rowing hard for 2 hours just to stand still, the undercurrents were so strong that we were battling to move forward. It became incredible frustrating and felt like we were rowing in treacle. Looking on the bright side, if we hadn’t been rowing to stand still, we would’ve been going backwards!

Overcoming these challenges made it even more satisfying when we eventually reached land. This, I quickly learned, was Ocean Rowing!

Be prepared for the unknown surprises that await you and be prepared to act quickly. The icing on the cake was that we managed to gain two World Records despite all the obstacles in our way…

When the flying fish knock you down, get back up again

On a lighter note, there were the flying fish. They looked beautiful when the daytime sun caught their shimmering scales as they flew through the air for 200metres. During the long dark nights, it was a different story. They cannot see where they are going and you cannot see them! Their wet slimy scales would often hit me in the face or on my naked back, catching me off guard and really startling me.

We were exhausted and often very jumpy as our nervous systems were run down making reactions even stronger than normal.

The fish would then proceed to flap around on the deck of the boat until we rescued them and returned them to the sea. This often provided huge amusement to the rest of the crew as I really suffered from claw hands from the repetitive rowing which meant I could barely pick things up let alone a slimy fish the size of my forearm!

Create your own Ocean of opportunity

Work out what your long-term goal is. Carry out daily actions that take you closer to it. Be prepared to be flexible and resourceful when challenges are thrown your way.

Be open-minded to receiving new opportunities and say “yes” to new experiences.

Surround yourself with others who are on the same path and work as a team to achieve your common goals.

Know your strengths and weaknesses, establish a group where you all complement one another.

Remember that people will come and go in your life as we all have different goals, surround yourself with the right people and know when to let them go.