Ocean Rowing Roundup for December

Since our last round up, one soloist has completed the first leg of his journey while another battles her way across the Pacific. Meanwhile, in the other major ocean, the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is underway. 

The hurricane season has now ended in the Atlantic, and the weather is becoming more favorable. Though only a few independent crews are on the open water this month, many are preparing to take to the waves at the start of 2023. 

Pacific Ocean

Michelle’s Pacific Row

Michelle Lee is rowing alone from Ensenada, Mexico to Sydney, Australia. She is now in the South Pacific and has been rowing for 127 days. 

Lee regularly adds comments to her tracker and has had to battle difficult conditions since setting off. Over the last few weeks, this has only worsened. At the end of November, she was in the middle of the Intertropical Convergence Zone, an area known for high rainfall and opposing currents and wind. All of this led to choppy waters that she described as “like a washing machine”.

The heavy rainfall meant she couldn’t see 50m ahead and was constantly drenched. Despite this, she has continued rowing for over 10 hours a day and crossed the equator into the South Pacific. 

Route map of Michelle Lees journey so far

Route map of Michelle Lee’s journey so far. Photo: greatpacificrow


Sadly, conditions have not improved in the South Pacific. On December 5, she faced two thunderstorms in one night and was being thrown around in her boat. She was directly in the middle of the storm as another came rapidly towards her. All she could do was sit it out.

“The rain was pelting down on my hull, the noise was deafening. There was lightning coming through my hatch. It was lighting up the whole side of the cabin, and the boat felt like it was vibrating with the thunder,” she later commented. 

Tom’s Pacific Row 

Tom Robinson is rowing from Lima, Peru to his home country of Australia. After 160 days at sea, he has covered 9,260km and is well over halfway. The Ocean Rowing Society estimates that he will finish in March 2023. 

Tom Robinson has made it to the Cook Islands

Photo: @thomas.robinson.12382


Robinson gave his first update only two days ago. He commented laconically on social media, “Landfall! 160 days at sea. 5,000 nautical miles. Overjoyed.”

His tracker shows that he has landed in Penrhyn, an atoll in the northern Cook Islands. Followers and fellow ocean rowers were quick to congratulate him on the milestone. 

Route map of Tom Robinsons journey so far

Tom Robinson’s journey so far. Image: tomspacificjourney


Before setting off, he said he intended to stop in Tahiti, the Cook Islands, and Tonga before reaching his final destination — Brisbane. However, he bypassed Tahiti, so this is his first stop. He has made no announcements regarding how long he plans to stay on land before setting off on the next leg of his journey. 

Round the World 

Ellen Magellan Expedition

Ellen Falterman began her row around the world on September 3. If she completes it, the 27-year-old will be the first person to complete a global circumnavigation entirely by rowing.

Unlike many ocean rowers, she is not aiming for a speed record. She estimates this journey will take her seven years, and she will stop at multiple points along the way. 

Ellen Falterman layers up int he cold weather

Photo: @ellen.falterman/Facebook


She began on the Trinity River in East Texas and followed the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. This brought her to the Florida Panhandle. She has just spent nine days rowing across the Gulf of Mexico to South Florida. 

Ellen Falterman sits in her cabin having breakfast

Photo: @ellen.falterman/Facebook


As a solo female traveler, she has chosen not to have a public tracker for her journey. Instead, she updates followers on social media. Recently, she has noticed the seasonal change.

“Definitely feeling all the wintertime transition, as I think back to the start of this expedition in September — the heat, the sun, the bugs — to now. The waning new moon phase coincided with the cold snap, and it seemed like the nights suddenly became dark, long, and cold. And my living quarters turned from a cabin into a cave.”

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 touts itself as “the premier event in ocean rowing” and “the world’s toughest row”. 

Soloists, pairs, trios, and quads vie to complete the 4,800km crossing from La Gomera, Tenerife to Nelsons’s Dockyard English Harbour, 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, 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, Swiss Raw, finished in 34 days, 23 hours and 42 minutes. The four-man team from Switzerland was the first winner from an inland country. 

The boats are in position to start the TWAC

Photo: @Atlantic Campaigns/Facebook


On December 12, 43 crews made up of 127 rowers from 17 countries started the 2022 race. The current race statistics are as follows:

Leading overall: Shut up and Row 

Leading five: Row hard or Go Home 5 

Leading four: Shut up and Row 

Leading trio: Dark Trio 

Leading pair: Dream Boats 

Leading soloist: Nothing Ventured 

Map of the TWAC positions so far

Map of the TWAC route, top, and the positions so far. Image: https://yb.tl/sdfsdgs22#


After just one day on the water, the leading boat has covered an impressive 175km. There are six soloists, 10 pairs, nine trios, 16 fours, and two fives in this year’s race.

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.