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Faculty of Science

SFU professor and team win women’s class of World’s Toughest Row, cross the Atlantic in 38 days

January 22, 2024

A team of four marine scientists, including SFU’s Isabelle Côté, have rowed 5,000 km across the Atlantic Ocean, winning the women’s class of the annual the World’s Toughest Row.

The all-woman Salty Science crew arrived in Antigua on Saturday, completing the winter crossing from the Canary Islands in 38 days, 18 hours and 57 minutes. Family, friends and loved ones from Canada and the United States gathered at Nelson’s Dockyard to greet the team as they landed at the end of the long, successful row.  

“Everyone was focused on the race,” team member Chantale Bégin, told the World’s Toughest Race. In addition to Côté, a Distinguished SFU Professor of marine ecology and conservation, and Bégin, the team included Lauren Shea, a master’s student at the UBC Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and Noelle Helder, of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.


“Winning was not the goal initially,” says Bégin, Côté’s former PhD student, now a professor at the University of South Florida. “We set out to come across safely, have a good time doing it and … to row as fast as we could.”

The team worked in two-person shifts, alternatingly sleeping for two hours, then rowing for two hours, spending 24 hours a day on the 28-foot rowboat. Rowers can burn up to 5,000 calories a day and the average rower loses about 17 pounds on the trip. 

Salty Science aimed to raise $500,000 US for marine science and conservation through three organizations: GreenWave, focused on sustainable seafood production; Shellback Expeditions, which supports marine research, conservation and education in the eastern Caribbean; and the Bamfield Marine Science Centre, which will use the team’s funds to create a scholarship for students of underrepresented minorities to help train the next generation of marine conservationists.