Ocean Rowing Roundup for March

Since our last rowing roundup, Mission Atlantic and the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge have ended. There has been plenty of action, Karen Weekes became the first Irish woman to solo row the Atlantic, and several teams are battling fierce conditions.

Independent Atlantic rowers

Shecando 2021: Karen Weekes arrived in Barbados on February 24. She began her row in Gran Canaria and covered the 4,800km distance in 80 days, 9 hours, and 45 minutes. She is the first Irish woman to complete an unassisted, solo row across the Atlantic.

She began with an aim to row for 16 hours a day. However, the changeable weather meant this was not always possible. An early storm forced her to spend several days on para-anchor.

Speaking to the Irish Times, she explained that the worst moments came from the searing heat, which felt like her “brain was on fire”.

United We Conquer: Jack Jarvis has covered 6,050km, roughly 90% of the distance from Portugal to Miami. When he completes the final 10%, he will be the first soloist to row this route across the Atlantic.

Alone for over three months, Jarvis has managed to stay in good spirits by listening to 26 audiobooks and rationing treats for specific milestones.

In the last few weeks, his pace has slowed. First, he dealt with blistering heat and no wind, then headwinds. Recently, storms have forced him back into “para-prison”.

Jack Jarvis is 90% of the way to Miami. Photo: Jack Jarvis

 

Forget Me Knot: This three-man crew of Dirk Von Delft, Johnnie Ball, and Stefan Vine are rowing across the Atlantic from Portugal to French Guiana. After 44 days at sea, they have covered 3,400km, 59% of their journey.

This week, they hit a personal best for daily distance: 140km. This is especially impressive considering the team has no previous rowing experience. After weeks of horrendous weather, the trio is now trying to make the most of better conditions.

The last few weeks featured big waves that left everyone consistently soaking wet. This, in turn, left their hands and feet in bits. To keep up morale, they currently have a bet about which day they will arrive in South America.

Rame Océan: Patrick Favre (FR) and Matt Dawson (U.S.) are rowing from Spain to Guadeloupe. The pair started on January 31 and have been at sea for 38 days.

At first, they struggled with a lack of wind. It was so still that not only were they moving slowly, but the heat was baking them. Luckily, since the last week of February, the wind has picked up, and their speed has increased. They passed their halfway point on February 26. They estimate that they will arrive in about two weeks.

Victoria Evans loves the unintentional 1980s-style hair caused by the salt spray. Photo: Sea Change Sport

 

Sea Change Sport: Victoria Evans is rowing solo across the Atlantic from Tenerife to Barbados. After 39 days at sea, she has covered 3,100km, 67% of her total distance.

Her weather has been so bad that she has switched her rowing pattern to six hours on, two hours off. Unlike those who have experienced too-calm seas, she has faced big swells and fast water. Although these pushed her in the right direction, sliding down big tailing waves was unnerving. It felt too fast and unsafe. Currently, the swells are pushing her north, while she is doing everything she can to move south.

Evans has also faced other issues. All of her kit, including electronics, got soaked when a wave crashed over her while she was transferring items from cabin to deck. She has suffered from shingles, which have flared up during the row. At one point she was locked out of her stern cabin, where her autohelm and life raft are located. Despite the issues, she continues to push forward.

Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge

The final few crews have crossed the finish line in the TWAC. Every year, soloists, pairs, trios, and quads race to complete the 5,000km crossing from Tenerife to Antigua. This year, 36 crews took part.

All entrants set off on December 12, and the winning Swiss Raw team crossed the finish line after 34 days, 23 hours, and 42 minutes. The foursome of Roman Mockli, Jan Hurni, Samuel Widmer, and Ingvar Groza was also the first team from an inland country to win the race.

The final crew to cross the finish line was Project X, a pair from Switzerland. Marina Hunziker and Sonja Graf completed the row in 75 days, 10 hours, and 6 minutes. Asked how they coped during their 75 days at sea, Hunziker said: “If your attitude is right, you can choose happiness. It’s challenging out there, it’s painful and sometimes you think you’re going to lose it, and then suddenly you’re back on track.”

Project X crosses the finish line, bringing an end to the TWAC. Photo: Atlantic Campaigns

 

The winners from each race class are as follows:

Overall winners: Swiss Raw (34 days, 23 hours, 42 minutes)

Winning five: Five in a Row (36 days, 4 hours, 42 minutes)

Winning four: Swiss Raw

Winning trio: East Rows West (37 days, 17 hours, 59 minutes)

Winning pair: Two Rowing Finns (41 days, 11 hours, 14 minutes)

Winning soloist: Ocean Rower (55 days, 1 hour, 9 minutes)

Mission Atlantic

Mission Atlantic has also finished up. The smaller event is only open to serving members and veterans of the military.

Organizers stress that it isn’t a race and that they merely provide support for teams wanting to row the Atlantic independently. The 4,815km route runs from Gran Canaria to Barbados. Two crews set off on December 22.

Atlantic Dagger: This four-man team of Connor Patterson, Oscar Stone, Mitchell Hutchcraft, and Jason Gardiner completed their row after 48 days, 4 hours, and 17 minutes. Though the route they took was slightly longer, they managed to avoid the bad weather that slowed their competition.

Cockleshell Endeavour 2021: Michael Turner, James Bevan, Dominic Thorne, and Ryan Tipping arrived in Barbados on February 20. The crossing took them 59 days, 13 hours, and 57 minutes. Though they were initially out in front, they crossed the finish line 11 days after their counterparts.

They chose a more direct route, but bad weather and unhelpful trade winds dramatically slowed their pace. Toward the end of the row, they began to run out of food. The crew had planned for 51 days of food and an extra five days’ worth of meal replacement drink powders. This meant they had to ration food over the last few days.

As they stepped onto dry land, they said, “Our bums are sore, our muscles are aching…everyone is exhausted but utterly elated.”

Cockleshell Endeavour makes it to Barbados. Photo: Mission Atlantic

Pacific Ocean

Erden Eruç: Eruç started his row on October 6 in California. He is aiming for Hong Kong. At 11,000km, it is the longest ocean row currently underway. After 6,000km he paused for the second time in his journey, this time in Guam, so he could make repairs to his boat.

He re-launched from Guam on February 20 but is still unsure if he has made the right decision. He wanted to row clockwise around Borneo to the Java Sea, hoping to stay away from tropical depressions and storms. However, he thinks he started a few weeks too late. The weather is changing more rapidly than expected. The veteran sailor admits that “the volatility of these patterns was a bit of a surprise to me.”

He is unsure if he will be able to complete the crossing and currently is heading for Legaspi in the Philippines. There, he will decide if he can complete the row or if he has to pause and return next season.

Unexpected weather has forced Erden Eruç to head for the Philippines. Photo: Erden Eruç

Rowing and cycling

Zerow-Emission: Julen Sanchez has been rowing for 95 days en route from Portugal to Miami. This is part of a much larger project, a zero-emission journey from Europe to America.

He began by cycling 2,800km from Paris to Portugal and is now rowing the 7,500km from Portugal to Miami. Once he reaches Miami, he will cycle the final 2,500km to Pittsburgh.

Updates on Sanchez’s progress have been limited. On February 9, he lost his third and final phone. He is relying on passing vessels to relay messages home. So far, they have confirmed he is doing well. At one point, he considered stopping in Puerto Rico to get a new phone. He has since decided to continue directly to the U.S.

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 parts of Africa, South America, and Asia. With a background in marine biology, she is interested in everything to do with the oceans. Her areas of expertise include open water sports, marine wildlife and adventure travel.

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Lenore Jones
Lenore Jones
2 months ago

I didn’t realize brutal heat was an issue at this time of year. I guess the crossings are far enough south that, with no shade, it really is hot even in the winter.