OUR group chairman Ann Lamming welcomed members from Burtonwood, Croft, Fearnhead, Penketh, West End Girls and Winwick WI’s to the autumn meeting.

A special welcome was extended to invited guests from Egerton, Mossland and Village groups and to Selina Prescott, Jean Harding and Zena Morgan.

After the singing of Jerusalem the minutes were read and signed.

A few items of business were discussed and then we all waited eagerly for our speaker to begin her story – and what a story it was.

Rachael Smith and her friend Lynne had rowed across the Atlantic some eight years ago, enduring the sort of conditions most of us could only imagine in our worst nightmares.

Rachael, who is only five feet one inch, had never been interested in sport while at school, but decided to try dragon racing in her spare time.

She won 24 medals in the coming years.

Then both she and Lynne had people close to them who had lost their fight against breast cancer.

They tried to think of something they could do to raise funds for the charity.

Finally they had the idea of trying to row across the Atlantic.

First of all they had to raise £70,000 to buy a boat, which they then painted pink.

The project took three years to plan, during which time they had to prepare themselves both physically and mentally for what lay ahead.

They had to learn to navigate by the stars, despite having all the modern technology.

The cabin was only six feet long and all their possessions had to be tied in, which was just as well because a huge wave caused the boat to roll over.

Thankfully it came upright again.

The sight of support yachts every few weeks cheered them.

Their hands and other parts were blistered and sore but despite it all they were determined to carry on.

They had the company of plenty of wild life in the form of turtles, dolphins and whales and a large bird that visited them about six o’clock each evening, hovering above them as though checking that they were alright.

When they reached the half way mark they celebrated with champagne.

At one point they were driven 60 miles off course by strong currents and winds, but it all became worthwhile when they finally reached Antigua, to be met by a large group of relatives and friends who were all very relieved to see them.

Despite having to learn to walk again, having been at sea for 76 days, they were delighted to have raised £65,000 for breast cancer.

Rachael told us that we should all try to follow our dreams and face up to a challenge.

Anything is possible (apart from rowing across the Atlantic for most of us).

She received a long round of applause and was thanked for sharing her inspiring story with us.

We wish her well in here new challenge to become a paramedic.

After a selection of lovely cakes, enjoyed by all, we were entertained by a group of line dancers from Burtonwood.

They must be fit to have had such stamina.

Well done girls.

The Westbrook trophy was won by Penketh and raffle prizes were drawn before we closed the meeting by singing the National Anthem.

It had certainly been an evening fit for our centenary year.