Ocean Rowing Roundup for May

In our last update, just two rowing expeditions were still underway. One has finished, one continues, and a few others are waiting to start.


Zerow-Emission: Julen Sanchez completed his row on April 17. He began in Portugal on November 29 but had to pause in El Hierro 13 days later to make minor repairs after a large storm. He restarted on December 24. Over the course of 131 days, 9 hours, and 30 minutes, he rowed across the Atlantic.

His journey has not been easy. On February 9, he lost the use of his third and final phone. Since then, he used passing ships to forward his updates home.

He had planned to stop for a second time in Puerto Rico to check his technical equipment and get a new phone. Just days before he was due to land, his family received news that he had decided to press straight for the U.S.

A particularly tricky section came at the Great Bahama Bank. Here, the shallow waters are rife with sandbars and rocks. Rowing through them was not his initial plan, but northerly winds forced him through. Sanchez did not sleep for 48 hours to make sure he safely navigated through this difficult passage. After completing his row, he said, “the beauty of this spot…was breathtaking and worth all the navigational hassle.”

His row is part of a larger challenge: to complete a zero-emission trip from Europe to America. On the first leg, he cycled from Paris to Portugal. The row was his second leg. He will now complete the journey by cycling to Pittsburgh.

Currently at sea

Team Neal Marsh: Ralph Tujin (NL), Kevin O’Farrell (IE), Robert Collins (IE), and Simon van der Hoek (NL) are rowing across the Atlantic from Portimao, Portugal to Kourou, French Guiana. After 34 days at sea, they have covered just over 2,800km.

Photo: @ralph.tujin.9


After a good start to their journey, the winds started to pick up and change direction, forcing them to deploy their para-anchor. During the first 10 days, they had to spend several days on the anchor, waiting for swells and unfavorable conditions to pass.

On day 12, they made it to the Canary’s most southern island, Gran Canaria. To avoid four-metre-high waves, they followed the coastline to calm water. Here, they again waited out the weather. Rather than sit in the boat, they spent the day on the island. The next morning, they set off again.

Photo: @ralph.tujin.9


When they initially stopped in Gran Canaria, Tujin stepped on a weak point in the jetty. His leg went through it and his shin slammed into a steel edge. Days later, it was still swollen, with a deep cut. Concerned about infection, they adapted their route to seek medical advice in Cape Verde. After 24 hours on the island, and assured that his shin would heal, they set off again.

About to begin

Tom’s Pacific Journey: Tom Robinson has landed in South America and is getting ready to start his journey across the South Pacific from Peru to Australia. This would make Robinson, 23, the youngest person to solo row the Pacific.

Photo: Tom Robinson


Robinson expects the journey to take nine months and plans to split it into four legs. The first will be from Lima to Tahiti, the second from Tahiti to the Cook Islands, the third from the Cook Islands to Tonga, and the final leg, from Tonga to Brisbane. Robinson will row in Maiwar, a 7.3m craft inspired by 19th-century whaleboats that he designed and built.

Photo: Tom Robinson


North Atlantic Challenge: Peter Harley is planning to row from Virginia to France. He would be the first person to row this particular route. He had intended to start earlier, but the weather forced a delay. He now hopes to start on May 15. At 61 years old, Harley is not setting himself a target end date, but he estimates the journey will take three to four months.

Photo: North Atlantic Challenge


Project Empower: Beginning on May 18, Damien Browne and Fergus Farrell will row from New York City to Galway, Ireland. The Irish pair are trying to become the fastest to row across the North Atlantic from west to east. The current record was set in 1896 by George Harboe and Frank Samuelsen, who rowed from New York to the Isle of Scilly in 55 days and 13 hours.

The Irish pair get some advice from fellow ocean rower Karen Weekes. Weekes recently rowed across the Atlantic. Photo: @projectempower2022

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.