Row4Ocean has been forced to abandon its ambitious attempt to break four ocean rowing world records, but delivery of the team’s inspirational message about the problem of plastic pollution in our oceans continues to gather momentum after a courageous battle in the Atlantic.
The team of Patrick Bol, Lewis Knollman, Andrew Ruinoff and Matt Wilds was finally halted on 7 January, the 24th day of the challenge, due to irreparable rudder damage on passage from Dakar, Africa to Paramaribo in South America. Opting to stay on board their 40ft multihull rowing boat ‘Year of Zayed’, the crew attached a tow line to their support vessel, Supertramp, for the remaining 750nm.
Their challenge turned into drama on the high seas with under 800nm to the finish. The crew were forced to deploy a sea anchor to carry out repairs to the rudder. Then on 5 January, the make-shift pin attaching the rudder to the boat sheered once more and the rudder dropped into the sea. On the 23rd day, after two attempts to jury-rig the broken pin, the exhausted team used the engineering experience of Matt Wilds to carry out a solid fix between the rudder and the rudder stock, but it proved too damaged to last. Further exacerbating their problems, the team struggled to make enough drinking water and charge the batteries, plus the gas stove broke.
“We are safe but we are gutted,” commented Patrick Bol from on board Year of Zayed via satellite phone. “From a practical point of view, someone needs to stay on board the boat to keep a watch. In reality there is no space for all four of us, but nobody wanted to leave the boat regardless of the hardship. I would like to thank all of our sponsors and supporters, after so much time and effort, the project failed because of a small piece of metal. It is a pity but we wanted to put out the important message about plastic pollution, and we have at least done that. We were so close, and sometimes you learn more from failure than success.”
The Row4Ocean crew are using their limited time to paint a vivid and passionate picture of their life at sea and promote a cause that is one of the most significant of our generation. The Inmarsat technology they are using means that friends, family and people all over the world are being drawn into life on board and experiencing each day as it happens for the crew.
“The support we are getting is amazing from our families and from fans all over the world. We are trying to break records, but the big picture is that this is a media event to get attention for a greater cause,” said Patrick Bol via satellite phone. “Mankind has discarded plastic and let it float away out of sight from our rivers into the oceans, and there is no apparent ownership of this issue. We have not seen many plastic bottles during the row but plastic in our oceans is a silent killer, it gets broken down into micro-plastics which gets into the food chain.”