‘Tis the Season

It’s December 15th and in exactly one year, if all goes according to plan, I’ll be launching out to the middle of the ocean in a rowboat and getting cozy with the sea for nearly 3 months. This is the time of year for mid-Atlantic ocean rowers. It’s late enough in the year to avoid seasonal hurricanes and if the weather remains “normal” then the winds will support an East to West passage without too much trouble. That’s the intent, anyway. I’ve been watching the weather at PassageWeather.com and the winds right now are fairly strong, but they’re pointing in the right direction. Even though ocean rowboats do not have any sails they are still affected by winds and currents and we need them to be favourable to make any significant progress. Rowers pull, rowers steer, but ultimately, the rower is at the mercy of the weather.

And so this being the prime time for Atlantic Ocean rowing there are currently 4 teams at sea, plus a race for solo rowers from Senegal to French Guyana. In order of their departure:

Rames Guyana:

A race across the shortest distance of the Atlantic Ocean between Africa and South America, a mere 2600 Nautical Miles (I’m kidding, of course), this route is known as “Trade Winds 2”. The race only has solo rowers and they all compete in the same style of boat. They’ve been at sea since October 18th and it’s an absolutely thrilling race with incredible conditions to contend with. Unfortunately for me, I can’t read French very well and their entire website is in French. They have some English but it’s not as complete. Basically, what I can tell is that the weather is totally messing with them and with less than 400 NM to go for some, reaching their intended destination is proving extremely difficult.

Gaby Harwicke Atlantic Challenge:

Phil McCorry and Dan Renner lauched on November 10th, 2014 from Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands and are heading to Barbados. They are less than 2 weeks to their arrival time if the rest of their journey goes smoothly. It’s been a rough go for these early season starters, but that’s the ocean, wild and unpredictable. It doesn’t look like they’re going to hit their goal of breaking the record, but they’ve had a great crossing as far as I can tell. I wish there were more frequent updates. As an obsessed ocean rowing watcher I like to find out what’s new everyday, and see how far they’ve gone and what life is like for the people on board. When the updates come in only once a week on average, well, it just feels less riveting. I’m sure it’s not so easy for the rowers to be blogging every night, especially when they’re going for a world record. But, I love the updates. (Just as an aside, not to be critical, and I’m very happy they have title sponsors, that’s cool, but I’m a bit disturbed by the copying of the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge logo. Hmm.) Good luck men, you’re doing it! Keep it up!

Vladimir Maximov (Solaris):

This solo Russian rower launched from Portugal on November 17th. At this point he’s making his way towards the Canary Islands and will be at sea for quite a while yet. The Ocean Rowing Society is hosting some updates for Vlad HERE and you can watch his progress on YB Tracking HERE. I love watching the solo rowers. This is going to be me one day. Vlad is rowing in a Rossiter Rowboat. It’s a pairs boat. Apparently he wanted flexibility of rowing position depending on the weather conditions.

Toby Wallace

And now a team of 7 rowing for the record (do rowers ever NOT row for some bloody record *grin*). This team launched November 24th with another crew on their boat, “Oystershack”. Unfortunately, Oystershack had to end their row when they attempted to have a teammate rescued by a nearby freighter due to medical reasons and suffered damage to their boat in the process. From what I read, it sounds like getting rescued from a Freighter is quite an ordeal. I hope I never have to experience it first hand. So, “Toby Wallace” is still at sea, experiencing challenging weather causing 7 men to cozy up in their cabins and chill out for a while. Well, that’s what they were doing a few days ago, according to the latest update, but if you look at their stats page then you can see that they’re making great progress now. Both of these teams were organized by Oceanus Rowing, which prepares and launches teams onto the ocean and into life-changing adventures.

Alan Lau

Last but not least, British solo rower Alan Lau. This row is the one I’m most excited about. He’s rowing solo, going nearly the same route as me, and set out in December, same as is planned for my row. Plus, he’s blogging frequently and I love to hear what’s going on at sea while I watch the progress of the boat. As we obsessive viewers come to be known as “dot watchers”.


I love to catch up on who’s at sea, but to be honest, even as someone who’s actively seeking out this information, I find it challenging to find the people who are rowing independently. This is one of the reasons why I like the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge so much. It’s well known, media outlets know about it, they have daily updates, the tracker is easy to access, the information on what’s happening with the rowers seems much easier to access. I discovered ocean rowing through the Great Pacific Race. They did a great job of keeping the “dot watchers” up to date every single day. This I love. After two months of watching the Pacfic Race I was surprised to find out that there were multiple other teams rowing the same route at the same time. But, I didn’t know. Media attention is not the be-all and end-all of big adventures. But, when what you’re doing is THIS big, well, it’s an opportunity to have many people benefit, either from the charity you support, the businesses you market with, or the people watching who get super inspired just from watching that dot.

To find your own updates on who’s at sea you can go to OceanRowing.com. You might think you’ve just stepped into someone’s tricked out MySpace page from 2002 with their black background and white font, but no, this is a current website that appears to be updated regularly despite the unusual choice of keeping this vintage web-aesthetic. From what I understand improvements will be made to the website and to the organizational aspects of this very important group. As they put it, “the official adjudicator of ocean rowing records for Guinness World Records”.

I’ve only just become an ocean rowing fanatic in the last 6 months, but from what I hear this sport is growing and growing. Everybody wants to do it! Ha! Well, maybe not. But, start watching these journey’s, and I tell you, you will become obsessed with how they’re doing out there.

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