A FORMER RAF squadron leader will become the first female veteran to attempt to break a world record solo row across the Atlantic.

Emma Wolstenholme, 39, from Burnley, is also hoping to inspire young people while also raising money for the RAF Air Cadets charity as she is set to row 3,000 nautical miles – nearly 3,500 miles – from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean.

The former 352 Burnley cadet will be setting sail in her 20ft rowing boat at the end of January and hopes to break the world record set by Anne Quemere of 56 days, 13 hours and nine minutes.

Emma, who served in Afghanistan and Qatar during her 16 years in the RAF, has set the target of raising £80,000 for the Air Cadets’ 80th year and is funding the entire row herself.

During her time in the forces, she was a member of the RAF bobsled team before taking on skeleton sledding.

She was inspired to start rowing when she saw a friend on social media taking on the challenge themselves.

The former St Hilda's Girls High School and Nelson and Colne College student said: “I needed something that was bigger and better than before.

“A friend of mine was doing this challenge and I thought ‘I want to do that’ and three days later I bought a boat.”

She says her time in the Burnley cadets helped build her confidence and believes that this will stand her in good stead in the water, helping her deal with anything by remaining calm and following all the right drills.

She added: “I believe my mental strength and self-belief stems from when I was an air cadet, actively embracing all the opportunities open to me.

“The team spirit often spurred me to literally push myself to the edge, once abseiling head-first over a cliff, continuing safely after slipping on the wet rock face, dangling upside-down but under the expert guidance of the instructors.”

Emma will need to row for 14 hours a day and will be the first female military veteran, and first former air cadet, to attempt this record attempt.

Last week, Emma travelled to RAF Cranwell with her ocean-going boat and was presented with her Cadet Forces Commission in the rank of Wing Commander and will assume the role of Honorary Ambassador – joining forces with the Air Cadet’s other ambassador, Honorary Group Captain Carol Vorderman, the TV celebrity.

Commandant Air Cadets Air Commodore Anthony Keeling said: “I have known Emma for a long time and have always been inspired by her amazing spirit of adventure, but it is only recently that I became aware that this spirit was fostered during her time with 352 (Burnley) Squadron Air Training Corps.

“Emma’s solo and unassisted world record attempt is inspiring, the fact that she is using it as a platform to raise funds for the air cadet development trust is humbling, and it is heartening to know that so many air cadets and young volunteers will benefit directly from Emma’s amazing endeavour.”

You can help Emma by donating at her Justgiving page.