There and Back Again: 14,000km Across the Atlantic

Jari Saario is setting out to do something no one has done before: a two-way crossing of the Atlantic. Saario will set off from the Canary Islands and row 8,000km to Miami. He will then transport his boat to New York, then attempt to row 6,000km to London. 

Jari Saario stands on his boat holding a paddle.

Jari Saario. Photo: Jari Saario

A bumpy start

Saario had hoped to begin his row in early January from Lagos, Portugal, but weather conditions made this impossible. In December, Saario switched his starting point to the Canary Islands.

Since the start of January, he has been waiting on paperwork and customs checks. He had hoped it would be done in time to start on Jan. 15, but his wait continues.

Speaking to ExplorersWeb, he said, “It’s frustrating. They have to check the boat but they’re not doing it and they don’t care. To them, it’s only one rowing boat. I’m the only one who is in a hurry.”

Deciding on a route has also been tricky. Originally, Saario was going to row from the Canary Islands to Antigua, but this fairly common route did not generate any interest from potential sponsors. Without sponsors, Saario knew he would not be able to complete the trip. He started looking for something no one had done before, eventually settling on a double crossing of the Atlantic.

Though the idea came from the need for financing, Saario now fully embraces the unique idea. “Now it’s the only thing I want to do,” he said.

Jari Saario is a firefighter in Finland.

Photo: Jari Saario


A big step up

Saario, a Finnish fireman, has taken on rowing challenges before, but nothing on this scale. In 2018, he became the Finnish 500m indoor rowing record holder and he has paddled 1,275km from Copenhagen to Helsinki. But 14,000km across the Atlantic is a huge leap.

“I want to challenge myself. It feels like everything I’ve done before has left a considerable amount of capacity unused…Everyone has challenges of their own size, this is my size,” he told Pledge Times. 

Saario seems extremely confident and aims to set a speed record during his crossing. He wants to complete the outward journey in 111 days and arrive in Miami by the end of April.

He will then wait in America for around a month for suitable weather before attempting the return journey in June. To qualify for a Guinness World Record as the first solo rower to complete a round trip between the continents, he is not allowed to return home between the two rows.

Currently, only one person has rowed from New York to London solo. Mark Delstanche completed the journey in 97 days in September 2021. Saario believes that he has a chance to break this record too.

Jari Saario while training.

Photo: Jari Saario


Saario plans to row for 14 hours a day, eat and relax for four hours, then sleep for the remaining six hours. As he waits, he is downloading music and audiobooks to help pass the time.

Every day, he will need to consume between 5,000 and 6,000 calories. He has 998 bags of food packed onto the boat for the initial journey and will add another 500 bags for the slightly shorter return leg. On his comparatively short row from Copenhagen to Helsinki, he lost 18kg. On this journey, he is expecting to lose over 30kg.


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A post shared by Jari Saario (@jari_saario)


Primarily a mental challenge

Saario is not overly concerned about the physical aspect of the trip. “The most interesting challenge is not the rowing but how to manage yourself in a small space for a long time,” he explained.

To prepare for the row, Saario has been training with Charlie Pitcher. Pitcher was a professional sailor and a seasoned ocean rower. He broke the solo record for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge (TWAC) in 2013 and has coached many teams for the race since. Pitcher has said that although no one has attempted the double Atlantic crossing before, he views it as possible but difficult.

For Saario, the biggest challenge is going to be the solitude and time away from his family.

“When I started wondering about rowing across the Atlantic, the first thing I did was ask my wife and two daughters, ‘Is everybody okay with this?’ I wouldn’t even have considered it if they didn’t support the idea. Of course, they are a little afraid and my daughters are already missing me. It’s a long time apart. We are a very close family,” Saario said.

Jari Saario rowing.

Photo: Jari Saario


A few times a week, Saario will speak to his family by satellite phone. He will also make a daily call to Lasse Hansen. Hansen (who completed the TWAC as a soloist in 2021) will give weather forecasts and route information.

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.