Lia Ditton

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Aurelia Ditton (born 1980 in London), known as Lia Ditton, is a professional sailor, ocean rower, motivational speaker and conceptual artist, now based in San Francisco, California.

Ditton is a successful solo long-distance yachtswoman. In her first solo crossing of the Atlantic, aged 25, Ditton was the youngest competitor and only woman[1] to finish the single-handed transatlantic race, Faraday Mill OSTAR 2005. Ditton crossed the finish line 4th in the multihull class after 27 days 9 hours 19 minutes at sea.[2]

Early life[edit]

Ditton grew up wanting to be an artist. She was passionate about sculpture in particular and a huge follower of the Young British Artist or YBA movement, in the 90s. By late 1999, Ditton had grown disillusioned with conceptual art and so set off for India to learn to carve stone. Ditton travelled on to Asia and in Thailand responded to an advert looking for crew to sail back to Europe via the Red Sea. This ocean voyage set the bar for many to come.


After taking a 4-year sabbatical between her first and second year, Ditton graduated with a BA (Honours) degree in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Arts, part of the University of the Arts London. In 2012, she earned an M.A in Professional Writing from University College Falmouth.

Art installations[edit]

Ditton's experience of racing across the Atlantic alone in 2005, formed the basis of her 2006 art installation ‘Absolute Solitude: One Woman, One Boat’[3] in which she lived on her boat in the courtyard[4] of Chelsea College of Arts, next to the Tate Britain Gallery for 28 days – the same number of days as it took her to sail to the US.

Photographer Alain Zimeray was a visitor to the exhibition and inspired by his encounter with Ditton, composed the book ‘Dames de la Mer’ with author Christian Bontzolakis, published by Marines Editions in 2009.[5]

Filmmaker Richard Gooderick interviewed Ditton after the exhibition, as part of his series Bluewater which was aired by sailing magazine Yachting World.[6]

Ditton joined Craig Revel-Horwood on BBC Radio 4 Midweek with Libby Purves, to discuss the exhibition.[7]


Ditton has modelled three times in New York City at charity fashion show event Dressed to Kilt[8] hosted by Sean Connery. In 2006, Ditton modelled for Nicole Romano, who attended the show;[9] in 2007 for Nicole Hanley and in 2010 Ditton and Joan Jett walked down the catwalk wearing designs by Joey D.[10]

Both 2007 and 2010 events were attended by Donald Trump.[11]

Professional sailing[edit]

Ditton's first experience of winning yacht races was as crew on board the Transpac 52 Rosebud, on the Caribbean circuit in 2003.

In 2007, Ditton raced in the Transpacific Yacht Race (known as the Transpac) on board the trimaran LoeReal, the boat originally built for the 1995 film Waterworld starring Kevin Costner. LoeReal was the 1st trimaran across the line and 3rd boat to finish, crossing with an elapsed time of 205:27:12.[12]

Ditton went on to project manage the boat's racing program based in San Diego, California.

Single-handed yacht racing[edit]

Ditton's first transatlantic crossing was aboard the famous trimaran Moxie in 2002. Ditton and crew survived a hurricane-force storm, which also decimated the fleet of the Route du Rhum.[13] Moxie was forced to pitstop for repairs[14] in the Azores, where Marc Guillemot, frontrunner of the trimaran fleet in the Route du Rhum, was also forced to stop for repairs.[15]

Inspired by this chance meeting, Ditton went on to race the next edition of Route du Rhum in 2006. This was Ditton's second transatlantic single-handed yacht race. Ditton came 2nd in class 2 for monohulls, with a crossing time of 25 days 02 hours 26 minutes in her 40 ft boat Dangerous When Wet.[16]

Ditton was one of 5 women of 74 entrants to enter the 2006 Route du Rhum race. Prior to 2006 and since the first edition of the race in 1978 only 7 women total had raced in the Route du Rhum,[17] with 4 completing the course: Florence Arthaud (in 1978, 1982, 1986 and 1990), Aline Marchand (1978), Ellen MacArthur (1998, 2002) and Anne Caseneuve (1998, 2002).

During the transatlantic race, Ditton penned the diary of her experience on the inside skin of the boat itself. After the Route du Rhum, her intention was to cut the boat in half, from bow to stern[18] and exhibit the boat as two half-hulls; displaying half in a museum in Europe and the other half in an art gallery in South America.

The boat sold complete with diary inside and on May 14, 2007, was abandoned and presumed sunk,[19] circa 100 miles south of Bermuda.

Ocean rowing[edit]

Ditton was introduced to the sport of Ocean Rowing in 2008, by an Olympic hopeful Danish rower. Two years later, Ditton went on to become the 53rd woman to row the Atlantic and 64th woman to row any ocean after completing the Woodvale Challenge, which departed La Gomera in the Canary Islands for Antigua in the Caribbean.[20] Ditton and her rowing partner finished the race as the 10th mixed pair ever to row the Atlantic.

Ocean rowing solo world record attempt[edit]

In October 2016, Ditton began training in San Francisco, CA, for a solo trans-Pacific ocean-rowing world record attempt. Departing in April 2020, Ditton will attempt to row circa 5,500 nautical miles solo and unsupported from Choshi, Japan to San Francisco, California.

To date only 2 men have succeeded in rowing the North Pacific Ocean alone and without assistance. In 1991 Gerard d’Aboville departed Choshi, Japan and arrived in Ilwaco, Washington 134 days later. In 2005 Emmanuel Coindre departed Choshi, Japan and arrived in Coos Bay, Oregon 129 days later. Both men were towed the final distance to land, 20 miles and 50 miles respectively. Arguably, there is no record set for rowing land-to-land across the North Pacific.[21]

In December 2017, Ditton made the Forbes 2018 Women in Sports to Watch list,[22] alongside speed skater Maame Biney, professional skateboarder Nora Vasconcellas and slopestyle snowboarder Spencer O'Brien.[23]

Farallon Island solo rowing record attempt[edit]

In January 2018, Ditton set herself a smaller challenge as part of her training: to circumnavigate the Farallon Islands.[24] The intention was to row a 70 nautical mile loop non-stop - out to the islands and back, which would be entered for consideration as a new Guinness World Record. According to the organisation Blue Point Conservation Science, on record no one had rowed to or from the Farallon Islands since Christmas 1898 in the era of the lighthouse keeper.[25] Ditton's first attempt on 24 April 2018 ended after 10 hours.[26] Her second attempt on 6 June 2018 also ended in failure. On 18 October 2018, Ditton finally completed the row in 3 days 35 minutes. The record was rejected by Guinness World Records on the grounds that "a first is not necessarily in itself a record. Records have to be breakable, measurable and comparable." The short film about Ditton's row around the Farallons is called 'DETERMINATION: Farallon Record.'

San Francisco to Santa Barbara solo rowing trip[edit]

In June 2018, Ditton rowed under the Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco, with 10 days of food packed onboard her boat. After rounding Point Conception, Ditton was blasted by freak Santa Ana winds of 100 degrees fahrenheit.[27] Ditton started drifting toward an oil rig. She dropped a sea anchor to slow down the vessel as it drifted, but, then found herself in a current heading westbound out to sea. Ditton arrived into Santa Barbara after 12.5 days at sea with nothing left to eat. Ditton said it was a good experience for what she will likely encounter on the Pacific and is quoted as having said, “You don’t learn anything if everything goes well."[28] Ditton categorized the 5 scariest challenges of rowing from San Francisco to Los Angeles as: 1. Jellyfish, 2. Weather, 3. Other Ships, 4. Sleep deprivation and 5. Rowing Nude.[29] The short film about the row, titled 'PERSEVERANCE: California Coast Row' was shortlisted for the Four Seasons Film Festival and premiered in London at the BFI in March 2019.

Portland to San Francisco solo rowing trip[edit]

In September 2019, Ditton began a 30-day solo rowing trip 100 miles down the Columbia River at Portland, Oregon and headed out to sea, following a path charted along the edge of the Continental Shelf.[30] She arrived in Sausalito on September 25 after rowing under the Golden Gate Bridge, completing her 828-mile journey.[31] According to Ditton, the open water trip was a training run for her planned 2020 trans-Pacific journey.[31]

Ditton characterized her Portland-to-San Francisco expedition as "a beautiful ordeal," noting that at one point in the journey she faced a storm with 40-knot winds and 60-foot breaking waves, with one wave tipping her boat on its side and forcing her to hang on for dear life by jamming her feet into the footboards and tightly gripping the rails of her cockpit.[31] At another point she was trapped in a powerful circular eddy, from which she extricated herself by counterintuitively rowing for two days back to the North from whence she came and escaping slightly to the West of the current.[31]


In 2012, Ditton was commissioned to write the book 50 Water Adventures To Do Before You Die,[32] which was published by Bloomsbury Publishing in 2014 in English and in 2016 in German under the title 50 ultimative Wasserabenteuer, die man erlebt haben muss[33].

Ditton has also been mentioned in the following books by others:

  • The Last Man Across The Atlantic[34] - Paul Heiney
  • Grabbing the World - Brian Hancock
  • Salt, Sweat, Tears: The Men Who Rowed The Oceans[35] - Adam Rackley


  1. ^ "OSTAR 2005". Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  2. ^ "OSTAR 2005 | OSTAR 2013". Retrieved 2018-02-20.
  3. ^ "06 | June | 2006 | Absolute Solitude". Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  4. ^ "Transatlantic yachtswoman Lia Ditton rigs her trimaran Provu before..." Getty Images. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  5. ^ "Dames de la Mer".
  6. ^ "Blue Water - Crossing Oceans - Yachting World". Yachting World. 2009-01-10. Retrieved 2018-02-20.
  7. ^ BBC. "BBC Radio 4 - Midweek". Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  8. ^ "Patrick McMullan Archives". Getty Images. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  9. ^ "Patrick McMullan Archives". Getty Images. Retrieved 2018-02-23.
  10. ^ "At Full Kilt: Dressed to Kilt is here to stay". Retrieved 2018-02-23.
  11. ^ Bertoni, Steven. "9th Annual Dressed To Kilt Charity Fashion Show - Arrivals - pg.11". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-02-20.
  12. ^ "Transpac Final Standings 29 July 2007" (PDF).
  13. ^ " - Storms batter Route du Rhum fleet - Nov. 13, 2002". Retrieved 2018-02-20.
  14. ^, Joseph Oster,. "Dick Newick's 1980 OSTAR Trimaran Moxie - Delivery to the Azores from Newport, RI, Nov 2002 - Video". Retrieved 2018-02-20.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  15. ^ "Oceanracing 2002 - Route du Rhum 2002". (in German). Retrieved 2018-02-20.
  16. ^ "Classement de la Route du Rhum 2006". (in French). Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  17. ^ "Les femmes du Rhum" (in French). 2014-11-20. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  18. ^ "Aurelia Ditton jette l'encre à bord". Libé (in French). Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  19. ^ News, A. B. C. (2007-05-25). "Sailor Saved in Dramatic Rescue at Sea". ABC News. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  20. ^ "Statistics of rows across oceans". Retrieved 2018-02-20.
  21. ^
  22. ^ Glass, Alana. "Lia Ditton, Professional Sailor - pg.3". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-02-20.
  23. ^ Glass, Alana. "Women In Sports To Watch In 2018". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-02-20.
  24. ^ Hanes, Kristin (2018-04-25). "1 Woman Is Taking on Shark-Infested Waters Solo in the Hopes of Setting a World Record". POPSUGAR News. Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  25. ^ "Farallon Lighthouse" (PDF).
  26. ^ "Oarswoman's attempted record Farallon Islands row washes out - for now". 2018-04-25. Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  27. ^ "International waters". Easy Reader News. 2018-07-30. Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  28. ^ "Rowing from San Francisco to Redondo Beach 'training run' for adventurer Lia Ditton". Daily Breeze. 2018-07-17. Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  29. ^ Rubenstein, Steve (2018-10-11). "The 5 scariest parts of rowing from San Francisco to Los Angeles". SFGate. Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  30. ^ Astorian, Lucy Kleiner, The. "International ocean rower trains in Oregon for Pacific quest". The Astorian. Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  31. ^ a b c d Gregory Thomas, "60-foot waves and 24 days: Rower survives solo journey from Washington to SF Bay," San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 27, 2019. Print: pp. A1, A8.
  32. ^ Lia,, Ditton,. 50 water adventures to do before you die. London. ISBN 9781472901132. OCLC 883869841.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  33. ^ Lia, Ditton,. 50 ultimative Wasserabenteuer, die man erlebt haben muss. Delius, Klasing und Co. Bielefeld. Bielefeld. ISBN 9783667106087. OCLC 950019335.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  34. ^ Paul., Heiney, (2005). The last man across the Atlantic. Edinburgh: Mainstream. ISBN 1845961072. OCLC 64555759.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  35. ^ 1981-, Rackley, Adam,. Salt, sweat, tears : the men who rowed the ocean. New York, New York. ISBN 9780143126669. OCLC 879552952.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)