They became the first brother and sister team to row across the Atlantic

Anna and Cameron McLean spent 43 days rowing across the Atlantic Ocean.

When they had completed the 3,000-mile journey, they had set two world records: the first brother and sister to row across an ocean, and the fastest mixed-sex pair to row across the Atlantic.

This is the story of their journey, but it’s also much more than that.

Innovation played a part in their success. How did they innovate while facing rough seas and sharks? Did they innovate together on that tiny boat, or were they innovating while taking turns on the oars?

ANNA: I remember getting back on the oars, and my body was saying, “what, you’re doing this again?! You’re back on the oars again?! You’re doing another two hours?!

That was Anna. I caught up with her and Cameron, Anna’s older brother, at a rowing club in south-west London shortly after they returned to the UK. It was her idea to do the Talisker Whisky Challenge, a race with dozens of other boats from the Canary Islands to Antigua. Taking turns to row in two-hour shifts, 24 hours a day, it took them 40 days to make the crossing. On the way they faced rowing in the dark, sleep deprivation, salt sores, massive waves and sharks, while Cameron fell ill with a serious infection, leaving Anna to row for 36 hours straight.

One of the things that kept them going was technology, including Microsoft Teams, which they connected to via a satellite and a phone. It allowed them to talk to family and colleagues on land. To be more accurate, what kept them going was what Microsoft Teams enabled them to do. Because innovation, at its core, isn’t about the technology, it’s about what it enables people to do with that technology.

ANNA: It helped us to compete rather than just to survive. Technology allowed us to know where we were in in the Atlantic, know how many more miles you’ve got to row, to navigate. Microsoft Teams helped us to communicate with land, which was essential. Because out there, we had no idea what the weather was going to do. Only people on land had that information. So for them to be able to relay that to us, gave us an advantage, because we then were able to forecast what we would have in three days’ time, if there was going to be cloud coverage, we could then reserve the water and make sure all of our batteries are charged at that certain time. So we had enough power in three days’ time.

Part of why their story is so innovative is because of the technology Anna and Cameron used, but it’s also about where it was used, too. To put their crossing in context: fewer people have rowed an ocean than climbed Mount Everest. And there were times that the closest people to the pair were on the International Space Station, orbiting the Earth hundreds of miles above them.

So those messages of support from back home via Microsoft Teams were crucial. They coming from a group of around 70 friends, family members and colleagues across the world who were part of a Teams group. They could send images and videos back and forth, and even hold voice calls.

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