After 35 days at sea, Atlantic rower Peter van Kets is nearing the halfway mark of his epic journey and is still going strong.
In fact, he’s doing so well that he’s secured a comfortable second slot in the solo class, and is positioned 16th overall. Van Kets’s main solo rival, Brit Charlie Pitcher, has streaked ahead of the fleet in his radically-new designed boat in a race that’s becoming increasingly tactical as fellow competitors scrabble to avoid adverse weather patterns rolling in from the west.
This year’s Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Challenge got off to a late start. First off, the safety flares for the entire fleet failed to arrive on time. Then, just when it was considered safe for everyone to enter the water, it wasn’t – a huge storm unleashed its wrath on La Gomera, Canary Islands, causing a further delay.
To date van Kets has faced a number of um, challenges. He was narrowly missed by a ship because he didn’t realise his AIS (Automatic Identification System) wasn’t switched on, saying on his daily blog “I heard what I thought was a helicopter and crawled out of my cabin looking skyward. To my horror, instead I saw a ship’s bridge as it cruised by! Needless to say, now my AIS is on, at full volume!” He’s also snapped two rudder cables, narrowly missed a massive wooden crate floating in the middle of nowhere and has been totally submerged three times. But his biggest scare was when he accidentally poured boiling water on his feet when trying to heat up some freeze-dried food while experiencing heavy seas.
Pitcher’s new boat, boasting a much larger cabin that effectively acts like a sail, has allowed him to pile on nautical miles for free – especially when the wind comes from the right direction, that is. In fact, he has stunned the entire fleet with his performance – decisively outstripping the daily gains made by the even pairs and fours teams.
But, although Pitcher has built up a significant lead, he’s not resting on any laurels just yet. The very feature that makes his boat so successful in good conditions, namely windage, works against him when in the rough. And he’s not only very aware that van Kets is steaming up from behind, but that every adverse weather system he encounters allows the gap between the two of them to be narrowed even further.
* To follow van Kets’s daily blog, or to participate in his charity drive for the Carel du Toit Centre for the Deaf in the Eastern Cape visit www.own-your-life.co.za
* Read Sean’s first blog about van Kets rowing solo across the Atlantic Ocean: Row, row, row your boat (posted: 26 October 2009)
* To check out the video of van Kets’s sea trials in False Bay, |click here|