Janice (Jan) Meek (maiden name Janice Cooper, first married name Janice Byles) FRGS (British, born 1944) is a Guinness World Record holding adventurer, ocean rower, international motivational speaker and polar adventurer. In 1997 she took part in the first ever Atlantic Rowing Race, the Port St Charles Barbados Atlantic Rowing Race, successfully crossing the Atlantic Ocean unsupported in 23-foot (7.0 m) wooden rowing boat in 101 days with her son Daniel Byles. In 2007, she and her son were united in adventure once again when, together with Richard Profit, they successfully walked and skied 350 miles (560 km) from Resolute, Nunavut to the Magnetic North Pole in 20 days and 5 hours. She currently holds three Guinness World Records.
- 1 Background
- 2 Adventures and expeditions
- 3 Motivational speaking
- 4 Charities and organisations
- 5 Guinness world records
- 6 External links
- 7 References
In the 1960s and early 1970s Meek worked (under her previous surname Byles) in the British film industry, initially in continuity and later as assistant to the producer. She worked with many household names including Roger Moore, Ian McShane, Sammy Davis Junior and Jerry Lewis, and helped to make some iconic British television programs including Randall and Hopkirk, Department S, The Champions and Catweazle. Her film credits include the 1970 film Puppet on a Chain and the 1972 film Pope Joan. After leaving the film industry to start a family, Meek moved to Saudi Arabia with her husband and two children where she worked for a time for the United States Geological Survey. In 1983, after separating from her husband, she returned to the UK and settled in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire where she opened a children's clothes shop. Over the next ten years, Meek became the first female Chairman of the Chipping Norton Chamber of Commerce, was elected as a Town Councillor and then Town Mayor. She bought and ran a local restaurant, and was headhunted to become the small business representative on the Heart of England Training and Enterprise Council (TEC). Since moving on from Chipping Norton, Meek has owned and run several restaurants, including the prestigious De Courceys in south Wales, and has been a wedding organiser and events manager. In September 2013 when she married the leading international public relations expert Peter Walker she became the first mother of a sitting MP to be married in the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster.
Adventures and expeditions
Exploring China, Australia and the world
Following the death of Meek's second husband in 1993, she sold her business in Chipping Norton and spent her fiftieth year backpacking around the world. She travelled to Taiwan to study Mandarin at the National Taiwan Normal University before spending several months struggling to explore China, which as a single female traveller was not easy. She then continued around the world, spending her fiftieth birthday at Cape Tribulation in Australia.
Atlantic rowing race 1997
After returning from her world trip, Meek was asked by her son Daniel Byles to join him in entering the world's first ocean rowing race. Despite neither of them being rowers or sailors, she accepted and they went on to successfully row 3,044 nautical miles (5,637 km) from Tenerife to Barbados in their boat Carpe Diem. Their unsupported crossing took 100 days, 18 hours and 57 minutes. The story of their adventure has been recorded in at least three Chicken Soup for the Soul books.
In rowing across the Atlantic, the pair achieved two Guinness World Records: they became the first mother and son team to row any ocean; and at 53 Meek became the oldest person at the time to row any ocean, although since 2005 this record has been held by Pavel Rezvoy (66).
Polar race 2007
Ten years after their successful ocean row, Meek turned the tables on her son and asked him to join her in entering the Polar Race 2007, which he accepted. In doing so, they set two additional world records in the Arctic. The mother and son pair, along with team mate Richard Profit, walked and skied 350 miles (560 km) from Resolute in Canada to the North Magnetic Pole. They survived the worst ice conditions for years, a near catastrophic tent fire and areas of open water and slush to successfully reach the Pole in 20 days and 5 hours. In doing so they set a new world record as the first mother and son team to reach any Pole by foot on 2 May 2007, and Meek became the oldest woman to reach the North Magnetic Pole by foot.
Geographic north pole 2008
Less than 12 months after setting a world record at the North Magnetic Pole, Meek was headhunted by David Hempleman-Adams to join his expedition to the Geographic North Pole to highlight the effects of climate change on ice levels in the Arctic. Also taking part was the renowned Norwegian explorer Rune Gjeldnes, and Hempleman-Adams' 15-year-old daughter Camilla. The expedition successfully reached the Pole on 13 April 2008, where they met and played cricket with a team from the Indian Navy. Meek is believed to be the first British woman to reach both the Magnetic and the Geographic North Poles by foot within the space of 12 months.
Following her successful Atlantic crossing in 1997, Meek entered the after dinner speaking circuit, where she discovered she had a knack for public speaking. As a lady over fifty Meek is an unorthodox adventurer, and this has led to a career as a professional motivational speaker which she continues to this day.
Charities and organisations
Returning to the UK after rowing the Atlantic, Meek's achievement was recognised when she was made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
For several years Meek served as a trustee of the Ocean Rowing Society, standing down from that position in 2005.
Meek is a founding trustee of The Carpe Diem Foundation a charity aimed at helping ordinary people to undertake extraordinary achievements.
Guinness world records
Previous world records
- In 1997/8 Meek was awarded a Guinness World Record certificate for being the oldest person to row any ocean at the age of 53 (this record is now held by Pavel Rezvoy (66)).
Currently held world records
- In 2006 Meek and her son Daniel Byles were belatedly awarded a Guinness World Record certificate for being the first mother and son team to row any ocean in 1997/8.
- In April/May 2007, Meek and her son Daniel Byles became the first mother and son team to walk/ski to any Pole. They are featured in the 2008 book of Guinness World Records.
- In that year (2008) Meek became the oldest woman ever to walk/ski to the Magnetic North Pole at 62.
- "Ocean Rowing Summary: Port St Charles, Barbados, Atlantic Rowing Race 1997". www.challengebusiness.com. Archived from the original on 2002-11-04. Retrieved 2002-11-04.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 1 May 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-11.
- "Janice Byles". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-05-12.
- "BBC - South East Wales Food - De Courceys in Pentyrch near Cardiff". 2007-10-11. Archived from the original on 11 October 2007. Retrieved 2016-05-12.
- "Presentation of the Guinness World Records Certificates to Oceanrowers". Ocean Rowing Society. 18 September 2006. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
- "The youngest and oldest oceanrowers". www.oceanrowing.com. Archived from the original on 10 November 2011. Retrieved 2016-05-12.
- "The Ocean Rowing Society". www.oceanrowing.com. Archived from the original on 21 April 2006. Retrieved 2016-05-12.
- The Charity Commission
- Article 1 Ocean Rowing Society Website
- Article 2 Ocean Rowing Society Website
- Ocean Rowing World Records recorded on Ocean Rowing Society Website
- Page from Guinness Book of Records 2008
- Daily Telegraph Article
- Regatta Magazine Article
- Wimbledon Guardian Article
- BBC article and video