Debra Searle MVO, MBE

Debra Searle MVO, MBE

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Solo Atlantic Rower

To book Debra Searle MVO, MBE please contact your JLA Agent.


After her oarsman husband developed an uncontrollable fear of the ocean, Debra continued alone and rowed 3,000 miles across the Atlantic. Having battled against 30’ waves and force 8 squalls in a 23 foot plywood boat, Debra describes the exhilaration of reaching a goal that once seemed unattainable. She’s also led a team of ‘ordinary’ businesswomen on an expedition to the Arctic Circle and leaves audiences with the impression they too can rise to their own challenges.


Debra Searle was hailed a sporting heroine when she became only the fourth woman in the world to row solo across the Atlantic. That wasn’t the original idea. She had set off with her husband, an international oarsman, but he developed an uncontrollable fear of the ocean and she decided to continue the journey alone.

Debra was considered the weakest competitor in the Atlantic Rowing Race. She was a gold medallist in dragon-boat racing, but had never seriously rowed before. She was scared of deep water, the dark and sharks, and she is physically rather small. Sceptics gave her two days at most.

In a 23 foot plywood boat, Debra dodged tankers and battled against 30 foot waves and force 8 squalls, though the biggest challenge was solitude. Nonetheless she dared to believe she could make it. A journey that should have taken around 40 days took 112 days and Debra rowed into Port St Charles, Barbados to a rapturous welcome.

Debra recounts her story - the highs and lows, challenges and victories - with her theme of ‘choose your attitude’. She speaks about how, whenever we face the apparently impossible, it’s how we look at the challenges that matter most.

With genuine modesty, enthusiasm and a contagiously positive attitude Debra shows how to build confidence by visualising a series of small goals, and how to draw from reserves of self-belief even in the face of extreme hardship. Her aim is to leave audiences believing they too can achieve targets that once seemed out of reach. Alongside her motivational message, Debra can also look at gender diversity in the corporate world (she is a member of the Women’s Business Network Forum), and at culture change.

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Motivational Speaker Debra Searle JLA Speaker Breakfast on Staying Positive