MONTEREY— Navigating 2,100 nautical miles of volatile waters is a tall task.
Completing that trek in a rowboat is a gigantic feat.
Team Pacific Rowers, a conglomeration of British and New Zealand athletes, will attempt to complete that very act, June 7, as they take part in the inaugural New Ocean Wave Great Pacific Race. The competition pins the Pacific Rowers, consisting of Colin Parker, 36, James Wright, 36, Sam Collins, 26, and Fraser Hart, 33, against other crews in a race from Monterey, Calif., to Honolulu, Hawaii. The voyage is anticipated to take five to eight weeks to complete.
“At first, the motivation was simply, why not? At the time it sounded so crazy that I guess I didn’t actually think it would happen,” Parker said via email. “But as time moves on, I am starting to understand the part of my brain that said yes. Being out in the middle of the world’s biggest ocean, between two beautiful landmasses, sounds incredible—pushing my own abilities mentally and physically against what is bound to be some pretty treacherous seas at times.”
The mental hurdles may be as difficult an obstacle as the physical barriers for a team that has very limited experience when it comes to rowing.
“Before we started this campaign, none of us had pulled a single oar in our lives,” Hart said. “Colin is the most experienced oarsman in the group with about three months experience under his belt. Us three have been out on training rows in our boat on two occasions—once in December and once last month.”
Aside from Fraser and Parker, who have been friends for the past 20 years, the team must also adjust to placing full trust in their new teammates. Collins and Wright joined the group in 2013. In the ensuing months, the team has been using Skype and Facebook to build their relationships.
The group is also busy staying fit, while collecting money to pay for the journey. All four men have experience in other endurance-tested athletic competitions and have spent the majority of their time leading up to the race exercising on rowing machines, mountain biking and swimming.
“I imagine the race will be boring at times, terrifying at others, fun, educational, life affirming and character strengthening,” Parker said. “I hear you get into the rhythm of the sea after about a week or so, so I am looking forward to getting into that mindset, where you are comfortable in your surroundings, and it seems normal not to be in a big city.”
Treacherous storms and impenetrable seas are a definite concern for the team, but most are in agreement that they are prepared for the safety apprehensions and sleep deprivation.
Traveling on the Britannia 4, the rowers will take turns in pairs, rowing in two positions for two hours at a time until they reach dry land. The vessel is equipped with solar-powered water desalinators and communication equipment consisting of a satellite phone, EPIRB and a GPS.
The boat is 24-feet in length, with a cabin at each end. An aft cabin houses all of the team’s electronics, including batteries, VHF, phone and chart plotter. The hull also includes a life raft, life jackets and survival suits. The crew will have email capabilities and will blog their journey on the team’s website.
Wright, who in the past has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and ran the London Marathon, said race rules stipulate that each boat must be stocked with 70 days worth of food, equating to 1.26 million calories of such items as instant freeze-dried foods added with hot water, high protein and calorie shakes and treats.
Wright is already envisioning the finish line.
“Provided I can walk when I step onto land, I’ll celebrate with my family then find the coldest beer and largest Big Mac on the island to consume,” Wright said. “Then after recovering, I plan to check out some of the volcanoes and surf.”
Part of the team’s mission for the race is to raise awareness for the problems spread by plastic in the world’s oceans, particularly in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
“No one pays that much attention to our oceans, but without them we wouldn’t survive,” Wright said. “So it’s quite pathetic that humans still do not think about the plastics they use in their everyday lives and the consequences of using them. We’re quite powerless to change things overnight, but the very least we can do is try to drum home the importance of trying not to use plastics at all, or at least re-using or reducing our use of plastics.”
For more information, visit pacificrowers.com.