A vet from Lancashire has become the first female to complete a 3,200 miles Atlantic Dash challenge.

Anna Williams, 29, from Croston near Chorley, was part of the four-strong Brightsides rowing team which completed the unassisted crossing from The Canary Islands to the Caribbean in 52 days and 18 hours.

The crew, who were raising money for Get A-Head and Meningitis Now, is the first mixed team to complete the C-Map Atlantic Dash, one of the world’s toughest endurance regattas.

Stepping onto dry land for the first time in weeks, Anna said she was delighted with her own and the crew’s achievements.

She said: “It’s just mad, it’s such a lot to take in.

“I didn’t actually realise before I set off that I could potentially be the first woman to complete the Atlantic Dash so it’s brilliant that I’ve made a little bit of history.”

Lancashire Telegraph:

They have also become the fastest team to date to have completed the dash, with Anna becoming the first female to finish the challenge.

They were led to success by crew skipper Rod Adlington from Warwickshire, who decided to embark on the rowing voyage in memory of his son Barney, who died from meningitis in 2005 when he was just three years old.

Rod and Anna, who were originally a reserve for the team, were also joined on the crossing by farmer Guy Minshull, also from Warwickshire, and serving paratrooper Alex Perry.

They set off from the island of Lanzarote on Wednesday, January 3, in their boat named 'Mrs Nelson', and have rowed non-stop in two-hour shifts for the duration of the journey which ended on Sunday, February 25, when they arrived in Jolly Harbour, Antigua.

The team faced significant storms, waves as high as 30 feet, challenging wind conditions, flying fish, sea sickness, sleep deprivation and severe blistering to the hands during the voyage.

They also experienced some of the most magnificent sunsets, multiple close encounters with dolphins and whales, and Rod celebrated his 58th birthday whilst out at sea.

The crossing took longer than anticipated due to testing weather and unpredictable sea conditions, but The Brightsides are still the fastest crew to have completed the C-Map Atlantic Dash in 52 days, 18 hours and 53 minutes.

Family, friends and locals gathered for the crew’s arrival in Jolly Harbour on Sunday and they were welcomed in by the sound of bagpipes and drums playing.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Anna is no stranger to endurance events having completed a multi-day ultra-marathon last year.

However, she said this challenge required considerable mental strength: “For the first two weeks I was loving it and thought I might be a chronic ocean rower.

"The getting up at night, lack of sleep and food didn’t bother me and I didn’t actually get that sick.

“There were loads of dolphins every day and I loved it but then the weather really turned and we had to get the para sea anchor out and after that it was just a tough slog right until the end.

“The thought of the finish was what kept me going. You just have to keep each other going and you know it’s going to be worth it in the end.

“The ultra marathon last September was more physically painful but it was over in five days, we got to sleep and have a shower but this has been long and mentally exhausting.”

Team captain Rod paid tribute to Anna, praising her positivity and endurance.

He said: “Anna was the last to join our crew due to a last-minute change and she had to work hard to get all her courses done in time as well has change her work commitments.

“But, what an athlete she is. She is an absolute machine, and it was hard to keep up with her power.

"She has driven the boat from day one and has never faltered. Her constant positivity has been fantastic and she is an absolute inspiration.”

During their time at sea The Brightsides team, named after Barney’s favourite song Mr Brightside by The Killers, have been raising money for UK charities, Meningitis Now and Get A-Head, which supports people with head and neck disease.

So far, the team has raised more than half of its £250,000 target.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Tom Bromwich, chair of trustees at Get A-Head, said: “We could not be prouder of Rod and the crew. What they have achieved over the last few weeks is truly remarkable.

“I for one cannot begin to imagine what it must be like rowing non-stop for six weeks with so little sleep and nothing more than flap jack and ration packs for nourishment.

“They are an inspiration, and we would like to congratulate Rod, Alex, Anna and Guy for their dedication and commitment to completing this challenge.

“The money they have raised will help us to continue our brilliant work to support people across the UK living with head and neck diseases.”