Rachel Platt | Celebrating Tori Murden McClure’s historic row across the Atlantic

Rachel Platt, Frazier History Museum

Rachel Platt serves as the Director of Community Engagement for the Frazier History Museum. She is a former reporter and anchor for WHAS-11. This essay originally appeared in Frazier’s newsletter.

I have followed her story for more than 20 years, but I am still in awe of Tori Murden McClure.

I am too old to be a fan girl, really, but I never grow too old to appreciate strong women who teach and inspire me — and Tori does both.

Of course, Tori is now the President of Spalding University.

But it was back in 1999, while working for WHAS-TV, that photographer Doug Smith and I flew to Guadeloupe to cover Tori stepping ashore, becoming the first woman, and first American, to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean, completing a 3,300-mile trek.

You can click here and here to see two of those stories.

I had done other stories leading up to her 81 days at sea. I had even covered her “failed” attempt the year before, when Hurricane Danielle intervened and the ship Independent Spirit had to pick her up after her boat, The American Pearl, had capsized multiple times.


MUSICAL | Dawn Landes’ album ROW, with songs from the musical she co-wroteMusical ROW from Williamstown Theatre Festival will premiere on Audible

How ironic, huh, that a ship named Independent Spirit plucked Tori out of the water, since her independent spirit is what led her to try again.

As Tori tells it, we all have oceans to cross, and stories to tell. She just decided to literally cross an ocean and literally write a book about her story and journey in life.

She challenges us all to be the best we’re capable of being — that being is more important than doing.

The boat she built, The American Pearl, is now at the Frazier as part of our Cool Kentucky exhibit. It was, of course, Tori who helped do the calculations to get it inside the door, with about a half inch to spare on each side!

It is a full circle moment for me with The Pearl docking here, a daily dose of inspiration in our Great Hall to weather any storm on the horizon.

Rachel Platt 1999 Story No. 1

Rachel Platt 1999 Story No. 2

American Pearl arrives at the Frazier

Dawn Landes discusses her musical ROW, based on Tori’s life