Ocean Rowing Roundup for December

Since our last roundup, the number of boats on the Atlantic Ocean has ballooned from two to 42. Four independent crews are crossing from east to west. The other 38 are taking part in the 2023 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

Around the world cycle/row begins

Louis Margot (CH): Margot wants to cycle and row his way around the world. He cycled from Switzerland to Portugal, then started rowing to Costa Rica. From here, he’ll make his way to the mainland U.S., cycle to California, then row across the Pacific Ocean.

On Nov. 25, after 19 days and four hours, he covered 1,188km from Portimao, Portugal to Gran Canaria. He stayed on the island for 18 days. His second leg, from Gran Canaria to Costa Rica, will be far longer.

The hardest part so far was landing on Gran Canaria. Initially, he was on course to arrive at night but decided that this was too risky amid cargo ships and tankers. Instead, he slowed down to arrive in daylight. As a result, he was awake for almost 48 hours.

Louis Margot in Gran Canaria.

Louis Margot landed in Gran Canaria. Photo: Louis Margot


“The AIS indicated that the [shipping] lane was clear. But as I made my way along the entrance, a huge cargo ship suddenly took off, dashing straight toward me. Total panic! With the wind and waves, controlling the boat was very difficult,” Margot said.

Once safely through the shipping lane, Margot navigated through a “maritime maze” of sailboats, windsurfers, and high winds.

On the island, he made a few repairs to his boat but mainly used the time to recharge his batteries for the second leg of the row.

Margot thinks it will take him two to three months to get to Costa Rica.

Piotr Pawelec (PL): Pawelec is rowing from Portugal to Guadeloupe. He started on Nov. 6 and completed the first section of his row on Nov. 26. Like Margot, he made a pitstop in Gran Canaria and stayed there for 17 days before restarting.

Piotr Pawelec sets off on the second leg of his journey.

Piotr Pawelec sets off on the second leg of his journey. Photo: Piotr Pawelec

In Gran Canaria, he rested, resupplied, and made small repairs. Then he waited for good weather before starting his second leg.

Pawelec has released few details of his journey, but his tracker shows that he is making good progress. And Pawelec had nothing but good things to say about his first few weeks of rowing: “No words to describe the beauty of the ocean,” he said.

Shipping lanes and seasickness

Pete Beatty (UK): Beatty is just over a week into his row across the Atlantic. He also started in Portimao, Portugal. He set off on Dec. 10 for French Guyana. So far, he has covered 280km of 6,115km. He hopes to become the oldest man to row alone across the Atlantic.

Over the first few days, Beatty has struggled with shipping lanes, lack of sleep, and seasickness. He is now trying to figure out the best routine to reduce boat drift while he sleeps.

Pete Beatty prepares for his row.

Pete Beatty prepares for his row. Photo: Pete Beatty


At the age of 12, Beatty watched a documentary about swimming the English Channel. Though not the best swimmer, he made several unsuccessful attempts during his 20s and 30s. Eventually, at age 45, he completed the crossing. In 2011, he walked from France to Gibraltar.

Oar Blimey (UK): George Nelson and Russell Davis are rowing from Portugal to Saint Martin. The British pair set out on December 1 and hope to finish the 5,600km in three months. They have no prior rowing experience.

George Nelson and Russell Davis before setting off.

George Nelson and Russell Davis are crossing the Atlantic. Photo: George Nelson/Russell Davis


Nelson and Davis planned to start at the end of November, but their water pump broke, delaying them a few days. The pair were particularly worried about getting away from the coast and through busy shipping lanes. After 25 hours, they confirmed they had made it out and were “breathing a big sigh of relief.”

They had a good first 48 hours but then had to deploy their para-anchor to stop strong winds pushing them back toward Portugal. This continued on and off for the next few days.

The winds are now in their favor, but they are having some battery issues. Both of their batteries are rechargeable but one of them is not charging properly from the solar panels. They are trying to fix it themselves. If they are unable to make the repairs they will make a quick pitstop in Lanzarote before continuing to Gran Canaria.

Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge

Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge (TWAC): The 2023 TWAC started on December 13. A total of 38 teams and 98 rowers pushed off from La Gomera, Tenerife, to begin their row to Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua.

The TWAC was founded by Chay Blyth in 1997. It was initially called the Atlantic Rowing Race. The event has changed hands a few times and now touts itself as “the premier event in ocean rowing” and “the world’s toughest row.”


The first few days have been challenging for the crews.

“This year has been incredibly unusual in the trade wind patterns, particularly with their high northward direction. The waves have been big and brutal, [they have] thrown our crews around with several experiencing knockdowns and getting thrown from their seats,” the TWAC team wrote.

One pair, Never2Late, are finding the conditions particularly difficult. Their tracker shows large waves have pushed them off route to the east.

The current race statistics are as follows:

Leading: HMS Oardacious

Leading five: HMS Oardacious

Leading four: Team Marduk

Leading trio: BlueTusk

Leading pair: Spirit of Hospitality

Leading soloist: Wave Wrangler

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca McPhee is a freelance writer for ExplorersWeb.

Rebecca has been writing about open water sports, adventure travel, and marine science for three years. Prior to that, Rebecca worked as an Editorial Assistant at Taylor and Francis, and a Wildlife Officer for ORCA.

Based in the UK Rebecca is a science teacher and volunteers for a number of marine charities. She enjoys open water swimming, hiking, diving, and traveling.