Ocean Rowing Roundup for December

Since out last ocean roundup, a journey across the Pacific has restarted, the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is underway, and one man’s attempt to row to Antarctica ended before it began.

Pacific Ocean

Erden Eruç (Turkey)

Erden Eruç began his 11,000km row from California to Hong Kong on June 22. After reaching Asia, he will continue overland to Everest, which he plans to climb in autumn 2022. So far, he has rowed 4,300km.

Eruç paused his row in Waikiki on September 10. During a busy month on land, he fixed his water maker, installed a new chart plotter, reinforced the cracked base of his spare oar stands, and arranged visas. He relaunched on October 7.

For the first few weeks afterward, he made steady westerly progress. On October 26, he “successfully achieved a rendezvous with the Sentinal-1 SAR satellite”. The satellite captures 20km x 20km images of the Earth, and Eruç’s mission was to be in one of those images.

Birds perch on Eruc’s boat. Photo: @erdeneruc


On November 9, Eruç crossed the dateline and moved from the western into the eastern hemisphere. That day, Guinness World Records informed him that he now holds the “Greatest Distance Solo Rowed on The Ocean”, thanks to his many ocean-rowing expeditions.

Throughout November, bad weather slowed Eruç’s progress. Last week, he heard that at the end of December, 40-knot winds and huge swell could pull him north and derail his journey. In anticipation, he began moving south to put as much distance as possible between himself and the coming storm.

He hopes to reach the Northern Marianas by January 20 and move into the Philippine Sea in February.

Drake Passage

Antonio de la Rosa (Spain)

In late November, Antonio de la Rosa was getting ready to start his Antarctic Triathlon. This was to begin with a 1,000km row across the Drake Passage from the tip of South America to Livingston Island in the South Shetlands. The Drake Passage is a narrow section of water in the Southern Hemisphere where the Pacific and Atlantic mix to create the roughest seas on earth.

Antonio de la Rosa caught COVID before he could begin his Antarctic triathlon. Photo: @antoniodelarosa


He waited in Chile for almost a week for his boat to arrive. A few days later, he was being towed to his starting point at Cape Horn when he started to develop a fever. After days of silence, he released a terse statement on social media: He has caught COVID-19 and is unable to start the row. He plans to try again next year.

Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge

Sir Chay Blyth founded the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in 1997. It was initially known as the Atlantic Rowing Race and bills itself as “the premier event in ocean rowing”. Soloists, pairs, trios, and quads vie to complete the 4,800km crossing from Tenerife to Antigua.

Rowers in each team row for two hours and sleep for two hours around the clock. On average, each rower drinks 10 litres of water and burns 5,000 calories a day, and loses around 8kg during the crossing.

A UK team known as The Four Oarsmen set the record for the TWAC in 2018. It took them 29 days, 14 hours, and 34 minutes. The winners of last year’s race, a pair from the Netherlands, finished in 32 days, 22 hours, and 13 minutes. They became the fastest pair to complete the crossing.

The route. Image from windy.com. Route line: taliskerwhiskyatlanticchallenge.com


On December 12, 36 crews made up of 107 rowers started the 2021 race. Four days into the crossing, the race statistics are as follows:

Leading overall: Pacific Boys (574km)

Leading five: Five in a Row (566km)

Leading four: Shaw and Partners Atlantic (563km)

Leading trio: Pacific Boys (574km)

Leading pair: Two Rowing Finns (513km)

Leading soloist: Ocean Warrior (318km)

There are now three soloists, 10 pairs, six trios, 15 fours, and one five. One soloist, Simon Howes, has already withdrawn from the race. He slipped on deck during the first two days, injured his ankle, and was unable to continue.


Team profiles

A large number of teams are taking part, from different countries and with different goals. To name a few:

ExtraOARdinary (UK). A trio aiming to break the record for a women’s three. One member, Kathyrn Cordiner, was diagnosed with incurable cancer in 2019, and in November 2020, she had to have heart surgery. Though she was unable to train for months after the surgery, teammates Abby Johnston and Charlotte Irving are doing more than their share.

East Rows West (UK & SA). This highly competitive trio of Hong Kong rugby players wants to win. Their original plan was to row as a four, but one member had to drop out during training. “It has not changed our goals too much. We have been clear that we want to be competitive, but as a four, that is a lot easier to do.”

Two Rowing Finns (FI). John Blassar and Markus Mustelin are no strangers to time on the sea. They met in the Whitbred Round the World Race. Since then, they have sailed around the world together, crossed the Atlantic about 20 times on different boats, and become business partners. “Years of planning…have matured into a common decision: to join forces again and take the challenge to the Atlantic,” they said.

The boats line up at the start. Photo:@atlantic campaigns


Four From Home (USA). A military veteran group that wants to “experience that intimate connection with the ocean”. Hailing from the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, they are rowing to raise awareness of veteran suicide and PTSD.

The Mothership (UK). An all-female crew. Pippa Edwards decided that she wanted to do the row when she was awaiting her husband’s arrival at the finish of the 2019 race.  Along with her sister and two friends, she wants to “inspire women and children of all ages”.

Anna Victorious (UK). A four joining in memory of the late wife of one crew member. Ed Smith’s wife died in 2018 after a year-long battle with cancer. He is now rowing to raise awareness and money for cancer research.