by Melissa Bray
Winner of the 1997 Atlantic Rowing
Race, New Zealander Rob Hamill is an
exception. Hamill competed at the
Atlanta Olympics in rowing in 1996.
"It appealed to me because it was a race,"
says Hamill, "and I wanted to see how I
would react under extreme circumstances.
Nothing extreme happened, but I'm now
less of a mystery to myself."
Winners of the 2003 Transatlantic Rowing Race, Kevin Biggar and Jamie Fitzgerald on board Holiday Shoppe. /
Les vainqueurs de la Course transatlantique à la rame 2003 Kevin Biggar et Jamie Fitzgerald à bord de leur bateau,
le Holiday Shoppe.
Ocean rowing has become the
new Everest for those wishing to
push the limits of extreme
adventure. But interestingly for the
main part it is not done by rowers.
cheaper than climbing Mount Everest.
Less people have done it. It is still
considered a new challenge.
© Rob Hamill
Competing to win in the next Atlantic
Rowing Race (November 2005) is three-time Olympic rower Gearoid Towey of
Ireland. Deep in preparation Towey
chose fellow rower Ciaran Lewis in his
quest to leave nothing to chance. "The
minor details are all important," says
Towey who is thinking right down to the
impact of an infected blister.
Towey describes ocean rowing like doing
endless power strokes. "The boat is heavy,"
he says, adding up all of the necessary
equipment. Towey describes the commitment as being the same as preparing for
the Olympic Games, "It will take the same
dedication to get across (the ocean)." >>
Great Britain's Peter Bird is perhaps the
most famous ocean rower having crossed
both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans,
accumulating 938 days at sea in a rowboat.
Bird died at sea in 1996 during his
attempt to cross the Pacific from Russia,
but he became the inspiration to many,
including the father of the Ocean
Rowing Society, Kenneth Crutchlow.
"More than 2,000 people have successfully
climbed Mount Everest but only 135
have successfully completed an ocean
row," cites Crutchlow. "These are people
who would do some kind of adventure.
Eighty percent have never been to sea
and very few are (flat-water) rowers."
Crutchlow established the Ocean Rowing
Society to give ocean rowers an information source and safety guidelines to
increase their chances for success.
Crutchlow is a living encyclopedia of
ocean rowing. He notes the huge increase
in interest over the last four years and
understands the appeal to the average
budding extreme adventurer: it is
Affiliated with the Ocean Rowing Society,
race organisers Woodvale Events use the
catch phrase "giving ordinary people a
chance to do something extraordinary"
to promote their races. Since the first
Transatlantic Rowing Race in 1997
Woodvale Events has grown to three
different ocean races. General Manager
Teresa Page says there's an even split
between those who go into the event for
the challenge and those who want to win.
"We get people who've never been on the
water in a rowing boat before," says Page.
"Rowing is just one part of it."