In February 2019, Jessica Rego completed a gruelling 3,000-mile rowing challenge across the Atlantic Ocean to highlight the problem of ocean plastic pollution, raising over $15,000 for the Marine Conservation Society (MCS). She did this as part of a three-woman team called Status Row.
It took them 61 days to complete the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge which set out from San Sebastian de la Gomera in the Canary Islands and finished at Nelson’s Dock in Antigua. All three worked in offices at the time and none had any prior rowing experience.
“It was an insane journey,” says the Bermuda native who works in London. “Nothing can prepare you to row an ocean. We did 18 months of physical training, we did all the courses, we mentally prepared for it, but we all had the best and worst days of our lives out there. You don’t know what the ocean’s going to throw at you.”
From a young age, Rego always loved animals but became more vocal about her environmental beliefs as a teenager. “There was a building development at Southlands that was proposed and I remember reading about it and being so enraged and wanted to protect this gorgeous piece of land,” she says. “I teamed up with the Sustainability Task Force and they came up with the idea of the tunnel protest. I was 15 or 16 and went along with that. My mother let me go as long as my schoolwork was done. She supported whatever I wanted to do as long as I was informed about it.”
Status Row chose to support MCS because they wanted a challenge that would have a positive impact on the environment. MCS is a UK-based marine charity which strives, through a number of different initiatives, to ensure the planet’s seas are “healthy, pollution free and protected.”
“We crossed the ocean for the ocean,” says Rego. She explains that one of the many things the charity does is highlight “little changes you can make,” adding that if you can get “people to commit to one little change of trying not to use as many single-use plastics, then you could get them thinking more consciously and sustainably.” One of her own habits is to take her refillable containers to the local bulk grocery store in London.
There were some tough days for Rego on the ocean, and on one particularly bad day, they put out a “call to action.” Within a couple of hours they received messages not just from friends and family, but also strangers who were “telling us the changes they were making like we don’t use cling film anymore or use plastic bottles anymore. If one stranger makes a change, I feel like we’ve accomplished something.”