June 20, 2022
By Rebecca Ross, Field Reporter
Leigh and Clare of Team Don’t Tell Mom appear to have their oar-powered system dialed. So dialed in fact, that they end day three the same way they ended their fifty-four miles of rowing on day one–by stretching in unison. Whether it’s from spending years in the Coast Guard, practicing for the race together last summer, or just being sisters for thirty-one years, this duo has a connection, and it shows in how seamlessly they support each other. Their synergy was evident when I interviewed them on Zoom before the Proving Ground in Port Townsend. Clare boasted about Leigh being a good teacher, while Leigh didn’t even take a beat to add that Clare is a quick study.
Fifty-four miles was longer than Clare had ever rowed in her life before this race, and despite that, she simply steps off the boat, secures it to shore, grabs arms full of heavy-ass bags, and follows Leigh to a spot she had scouted out. The campsite happens to be in close proximity to the one Carling and Michelle of Team Let’s Row Maybe? have chosen. This isn’t the first time I have found these rivals landing in the same place, but according to Clare, this dance the two teams do is “not on purpose.” She told me the same thing when I visited both teams as they took shelter on Dungeness Spit. Did I detect a hint of competitiveness?
And I believe her. The more I observe these teams, the more I am reminded that they are starkly different. On paper, they share similarities, including both being row teams, both being all-women teams, and both being ambitious (or crazy) enough to do this in the first place. But they do not share style or method—far from it. More to come as I continue to follow their progress.
Sagely choosing a secluded and dry spot, Team Don’t Tell Mom finally paused, giving me time to catch up with them, literally and figuratively.
“How is it compared to 2019 when you did R2AK?” I asked Clare. At ease, she smiles and echoes a sentiment I’ve heard from other race veterans. “It’s funny, it’s almost exactly what I remember. It’s like I have deja vu.”
The team shares snacks while quietly sharing the moment as they take in the serene views of Prevost Harbor in the background. I want to pepper them with questions, but I hesitate to speak. There’s something about Clare and Leigh—they have this unspoken way of communicating that I hate to interrupt, but finally I do. “How do you two feel after today?”
They share a glance in code, a look I’ve seen at least a few times by now. It’s probably a sister thing. Leigh shrugs, “I don’t know.” “Maybe a little sore,” she adds nonchalantly. “Yeah,” Clare agrees simply. Must be from all the stretching they do—note to self—do more of that in life!
I think I’m starting to piece together their secret: consistency, strong and steady, avoiding burnout, and definitely stretching—at least, this is what I got from them thus far…
Rebecca Ross, field reporter
Rebecca is a freelance writer and outdoor photographer based in Longview, Washington, who spends time backpacking, traveling, and summiting peaks.