Record row raises $20,000

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Former Oamaru rower Jo Kearney is “absolutely humbled” after her voyage across the Cook Strait raised over $20,000 for charity.

The 23-year-old joined three other rowers earlier this month for a 98km excursion to raise money for their charity, Through the Blue.

They became the first women to row the whole distance across the strait.

Kearney, who now lives in Wellington, said the journey from Mana to Picton was “incredibly challenging”.

“The boat handled the conditions really well until we stopped moving and then it would start taking on water,” she told the Oamaru Mail

“One of the big challenges that we found was we had to deviate from our plan of rowing for an hour and then taking a break every 15 minutes because we couldn’t stop in the strait safely.

“We ended up having to take turns and quickly drop out, have some water, refuel and then just keep going.”

After five hours crossing the strait, Kearney said the crew was presented with a different challenge at Queen Charlotte Sound.

“That little gap at the very top of the sounds was very mentally tough. Because we were arcing for about three hours, it didn’t look like we weren’t getting any closer to land.

“The coast is extremely beautiful around there, but really you are just focusing on the next stroke and making sure your blade is in the right position for the next big wave.

“At one point, when we were all just so past it, one of the girls said, ‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – it’s not like we are going to come back and do this again.’ And it helped us regroup and refocus.”

After 10 hours on the water, the team made it to Picton, tired but excited.

“My left hand, especially, is still coming right, but it was all for a good cause and an incredible adventure,” Kearney said.

“I think we’ve raised just over $20,000, which is absolutely incredible. We are absolutely humbled by the feedback and the outreach.”

Kearney founded Through the Blue with eight others in November. The charity aims to promote a national conversation about better access and early invention for young New Zealanders’ mental health.

With the rowing over, Kearney will finish off her university trimester and do more Through the Blue work.

“We have a bit of an opportunity to focus on the charity side of it and start implementing our vision as a group. It’s really exciting. I’m also relieved we don’t have to row Cook Strait again.”