Ocean Rowing Roundup

Oceans Rowing/canoeing
Ocean Sheroes celebrate their arrival in Hawaii.

Since our last roundup of ocean rowing expeditions, the Great Pacific Race has ended, many new journeys have begun, and everyone has battled fierce storms.

Pacific Ocean

Erden Eruç (Turkey)

Eruç left California for Hong Kong on June 22. No one has rowed east to west across the Pacific from America to Asia before.

“The risk is high,” said Eruç. “It’s not going to be trivial and I will need some luck. If I make the distance between Hawaii and Guam or the Marianas safely, then I should be okay. That’s the risky episode in this whole crossing,” he told Adventure Journal.

After 41 days, he is halfway between North America and Hawaii. Recently, he has received a tsunami warning for the Pacific because of an earthquake in Alaska and also a warning about Hurricane Hilda.

The Endurance Limits rowers toast their arrival in Hawaii. They are the oldest crew to complete the journey. Photo: @Endurance Limits

Endurance Limits

Darren Clawson, Aaron Worbey, Simon Evans, and Josh Tilts completed their 43-day row from Monterey, California to Honolulu, Hawaii on July 13. Weather and injury slowed their start. For long periods, they were unable to row as a four because of Evans’s ailing shoulder. In the final few weeks, improved conditions helped speed them along.

“As the wind speed picks up…. it’s pushing you faster than you can row… a fantastic feeling!” they said.

The easy rowing was short-lived. Soon they had to battle a rip current, and in the last 24 hours, their autopilot broke.

Great Pacific Race

Latitude 35

The four-man crew of Duncan Roy (UK), Angus Collins (UK), Jordan Shuttleworth (UK), and Jason Caldwell (U.S.) won the Great Pacific Race on June 30. From the beginning, the team was open about wanting both to win the race and set a new course record.

They accomplished both. They cut an incredible nine days off the previous mark, finishing the 4,400km journey in 30 days.  Adding another dimension to the race, Angus Collins’s sister rowed for the Ocean Sheroes crew.

Ocean Sheroes set the women’s record in the Great Pacific Race. Photo: @OceanSheroes

Ocean Sheroes

Bella Collins, Purusha Gordon, Mary Sutherland, and Lily Lower of the Ocean Sheroes team broke the women’s record for this route. They completed their San Francisco to Hawaii row on July 6 after 36 days, beating the previous record by two weeks. They also became the first all-British four to complete the race.

“The final two days at sea were filled with excitement, joy, and almost hysteria,” they said.

Girls Who Dare

The second all-women crew in the race crossed the finish line on July 31 after 60 days and 17 hours at sea. Victoria Anstey (UK), Jane Leonard (UK), and Orlagh Dempsey (IE) did not have the easiest journey.

At first, they got caught in strong winds that the other crews had missed. From there, they had to deploy their para-anchor for many days while waiting out storms. They battled sea sickness and broke two oars during the journey. The steering on the boat also slowed down the three-woman crew. The other boats in the race had an autopilot system, but Girls Who Dare steered manually, using a footplate.

North Atlantic, U.S. to Europe

Guirec Soudée, at sea again.

Guirec Soudée (FR)

The 29-year-old Frenchman has been busy this year. In December, he left the Canary Islands and rowed for 74 days to the Caribbean aboard his eight-metre craft. Now he is 48 days into his return voyage from Massachusetts back to France. He hit the halfway mark on July 25.

After battling through Tropical Storm Claudette at the start of his row, Soudée fought more waves at the end of June.

This time, it became even more serious. He lost all communications, and his family were unable to find him on a tracker. Knowing that he was enduring 60-knot gusts, they contacted American and French rescue centres to see if he had triggered his distress beacon. He hadn’t.

Another crew managed to raise him over the radio: He was safe and still rowing. He has decided to continue without communications and is now sending home messages once a week via passing ships.

These ex-Marines want to be the first crew to row from New York to London. Photo: oceanrevival2020

Ocean Revival (UK)

Matt Mason, Ian Clinton, Simon Chalk, and Jordan Swift are rowing from the Brooklyn Bridge in New York to Tower Bridge, London. After 62 days, they had covered 91 percent of the route. On July 27, they were ecstatic about their progress.

“UK time baby! Officially crossed the final time zone and we are now on the same time as the rest of the UK,” they exulted.

Like everyone on this route, they have had to row through incredibly tough conditions and have lost more weight than they expected. But morale is high, and they joked on social media, “People pay thousands on diets these days…We just decided to row from New York to London during some of the worst conditions on record.”

Mark Delstanche (UK)

Delstanche is also trying to row the virgin route from New York to London. He did not have an easy start. After two weeks, he said, “No amount of training and conditioning can quite prepare you for the constant exertion and movement of the boat, which makes everything twice as hard as it is on dry land.”

Already suffering from a backache and constant pins and needles in one arm, he then capsized and twisted his right knee.

Despite it all, by July 15, he had made it halfway across the Atlantic, passed David Bell (see below) and “has the next solo rower in his sights”. But his joy was short-lived. The weather forecast “knocked the stuffing out of me”, when he heard that he was going to be pushed south for about eight days.

Yet on his 47th day at sea, he not only celebrated his 47th birthday but also smashed his own target of being 1,000 nautical miles from the finish line by August. He is now 945nm (1,750km) from London.

Ian Rivers (UK)

The former SAS soldier plans to finish on the Isle of Scilly. As with everyone else on this route, he had to battle Tropical Storm Claudette early on. Conditions have remained difficult for him for most of his row. At the start of July, he found himself in the middle Force 10 storm. Then it lessened into Force 8, which lasted for many days.

A month later, he’s still enduring rough water. On July 29, he wrote, “Mother Nature happened like a freight train out of control before last light. It got messy real quick Sentinel was out of control.”

Rivers also has a chest infection and is not using a GPS like everyone else in the North Atlantic. Instead he’s using “a sextant, the sun, moon, and stars to get home”. He is now into his final 1,500km.

David Bell used superglue and zip ties to repair his broken spork. Photo: @ny2uksolorow

David Bell (UK)

Bell has now been rowing for 63 days and has covered 3,500km of his New York to Falmouth row. Initially, he struggled with the storms, but his morale has improved over time.

“I’m actually really happy, and the only difference between today and when I was getting really low…is my state of mind,”  he wrote.

A very worrying moment came at the end of June. In a storm, Bell saw a 200m vessel charging straight for him. With his para-anchor deployed, he couldn’t row, and at first the ship wouldn’t respond over the radio. Thankfully, it eventually heard him and took a wide berth around his port side.

There have been minor challenges, too. His last eating utensil broke in June. “Turn’s out cheap sporks aren’t the best choice for ocean rowing!” he wrote ruefully. Then a Portuguese Man O’War stung him.

But the biggest challenge came yesterday. Battery failure has shut down all his electronics.

“He’s going to run with his Echomax, which uses a fraction of the power, and when it senses a ship’s radar, he’ll then switch on his AIS [automatic identification system] so they can see him,” his family explained. “It’s not a perfect solution but it’s currently his best option.”

The Hard Way Home

Réamonn Byrne (IE), Chris McCaffrey (U.S.), Ryen Cosgro (U.S.) began rowing from Cape Cod to Galway, Ireland on July 10. They had planned to set off earlier from New York, but bad weather prompted the change, as they sat out the earlier storms.

As the window to leave shrank and their chances of getting caught in hurricane season increased, they decided to leave from Cape Cod, just south of Boston.

The Hard Way Home gang. Photo: @thehardwayhome

Around mainland Britain

Ready, salt, row

A crew of six began rowing around the UK on July 10. They started in Cowes, on the Isle of Wight. After 23 days, they have made it to Aberdeen. At the moment, they are stationary off Aberdeen, Scotland.

“A member of the crew [is not] very well,” they explained.

They’ve tried to manage the situation onboard for over five days, as both they and the ill crew member want to continue as a full complement. They decided to pause and hope that time sorts the situation out. Further into the North Sea, few places exist for someone to disembark if necessary.

Rowing around Britain can be tricky due to changeable winds and fast-turning tides. Furthermore, no one in this group classifies himself or herself as a rower. They are all sailors seeking a different challenge. The men’s record around mainland UK is 26 days and the women’s record is 52 days, but there is no record for a mixed team. “We want that record!” they said before setting off.

Ready, salt, row have paused in Aberdeen because of illness. Photo: @readysaltrow

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About the Author

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca is a freelance writer and science teacher based in the UK.

She is a keen traveler and has been lucky enough to backpack her way around Africa, South America, and Asia. With a background in marine biology, she is interested in everything to do with the oceans and aims to dive and open-water swim in as many seas as possible.

Her areas of expertise include open water sports, marine wildlife and adventure travel.

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