Introducing Mary Rose & Project Flightplan

Posted on June 5, 2014 in Project Flight Plan

Partway into her Pacific campaign, Mary Rose, a 43-year-old Australian, desperately needed to find $32,000. After trying and failing to raise a loan from banks, Mary wondered if she might have to abandon her dream. But almost as soon as she had the thought, she knew that failure was not an option. She would find that money somehow.

In desperation, she posted an ad on a fundraising website, and within hours had received an email from an investment banker in New Jersey. Over the next four and a half hours, they exchanged a few more emails and spoke on the phone for 90 minutes. By the end of the call the banker had pledged to overnight a cheque to Mary, for the full amount of $32,000. The impossible had happened and her campaign was back on course.

We asked Mary if she had any top tips for would-be rowers trying to raise sponsorship. Forget sending out sponsorship packs, she says. They don’t work. Her experience with Subaru is a prime example of a better approach. Mary wanted a truck so she could get from her home in Phoenix, Arizona, to her rowing club in San Diego – a commute that she has made every week for the last year, spending 3 days working as an accounting consultant and 4 days training. So she examined Subaru’s marketing materials to see how her message could mesh with their message, got a graphic designer friend to mock up a photo of a branded Subaru truck with oars on the roof and a rowboat on a trailer, enlisted the support of her local Subaru dealer who just happened to be a personal friend of the CEO of Subaru America, and prepared her pitch – showing up at their office in her smelly workout gear between training sessions, which no doubt created a memorable impression. Despite the scepticism of her friends, the pitch worked, and the truck was hers.

It may well be a factor in her success that Mary has a cause that she is absolutely passionate about – and she doesn’t mind at all being referred to as “the crazy bird lady”. Since the day that she walked into a pet store and an Eclectus parrot stuck its head out of its cage and said hello, she has been smitten with birds, so much so that she created her own nonprofit, Chirping Central, to help save avian species from extinction. So when she was talking to the generous investment banker from New Jersey, she was able to draw a very clear connection between his donation, her voyage, and the preservation of bird species around the world, so that he would understand exactly how his money was contributing to the greater cause.

Mary claims to be naturally shy, but her commitment to her mission has revealed courage she never knew she had. It has had other benefits too – since she took up rowing 2 years ago, with this race specifically as her goal, she has gone from a size 16 to a junior size 9, and feels much better for it.

She has been preparing her mind as well as her body, working with a psychologist who has created a map of her brain to show which areas of the brain are firing the most when she’s stressed, and using neurofeedback to help her train her brain to stay calm. A visual on a screen – of a boat race, naturally – shows her progress as she attempts to control her stress response. If she is doing well, her boat draws into the lead. If she loses focus, her boat falls behind. She claims the technique has helped her to cope with the stress of preparing for the race, and will doubtless also stand her in good stead once she gets out onto the ocean.

Mary has proved herself a master of creating her own luck. We hope her luck continues all the way to Hawaii.

Link to Project Flight Plan Crew Page

Flight Plan - Mary Rose 2521


Author’s note: I feel a special responsibility – and a sense of pride – that Mary is about to row the Pacific. This is how Mary describes an evening that changed her life: “This particular journey started in February 2012 when I attended an event in Mesa, Arizona.  That night I was going to a presentation by Roz Savage entitled Solo Across the Oceans.  When I went to the event I was just someone in the audience who thought that the presentation would be interesting.  When I left the presentation, it was a very different story.  Really Mary – you think you want to row an ocean????  Are you crazy?  And so the process began and Project Flight Plan was born.” (Quoted from Mary’s website)

Roz Savage


IMG_2947 ©Ellen Hoke Photography