A fast row to Eden – four-man rowing crew lands in Seychelles after 73 days at sea
The crew feeling accomplished after rowing for 73 days across the Indian from Australia (Fast Row West/Facebook)
(Seychelles News Agency) - A team of four young British rowers have broken two Ocean Rowing Society world records. The crew set off in their specially-built rowing vessel, the Tiny Dancer, from Australia across the Indian Ocean in an epic 73-day voyage that traversed over 7,000km to end up in the Eden Island yacht marina near the Seychelles capital of Victoria on Wednesday, exhausted but exuberant.
The Fast Row West crew made up of Alex Simpson, Angus Collins, Hamish Khayat and Jamie Sparks, all ranging in age from 22 to 24, has been confirmed as the fastest four-man crew to cross the Indian Ocean, the youngest four-man crew to cross any ocean and the fourth quickest row boat to cross the Indian.
The Fast Row West crew seen at sea some 40 minutes before they hit land!! (Fast Row West/Facebook) Photo License: CC-BY
The achievement comes a month after a seven-person rowing crew, the Rossiter’s Avalon, recorded the fastest-ever crossing of the Indian Ocean in a rowing boat as well as achieving the longest rowing record after rowing from Western Australia to the Seychelles in only 57 days.
A rough time at sea
In a blog post on August 7th, the team described the ominous feeling of “the calm before the storm” and had an up-close and personal experience with a whale.
After storms and high winds created some teeth-gnashing waves, Angus Collins wrote: “…it’s been pretty hectic, we are now 4 oars down, some due to monstrous waves, some simply disappearing into the deep blue as their collars fall off and they slide through the gates. This means we only have four more oars! During this year’s Atlantic race, two oars were broken between 16 teams. We doubled that in 48 hours!”
“I am astounded at how strong a team we have here. We have been through some of the toughest weather that we are likely to ever see… we have been both physically and mentally exhausted for over 30 days now, yet every one of us is still able to wake up for their shift, crack a little joke and get on the oars.”
On August 9th, shattering news would leave the team reeling: adverse weather conditions and high winds blowing against them would mean a delay of 8 days, which would mean the record they were aiming for would not be possible.
“Even if we were able to not break an oar (we have no spares), we may well have missed Mauritius and had to have a tow-in which would have been heart-breaking for the team,” wrote Sparks.
“We had a torrid 24 hours trying to get our heads around this and then made the decision to alter our final destination to one 500 miles further, but north, and hence far more pleasant and safe,” speaking of the team’s decision to land at Victoria. “In fact we hope to spend no longer than 20 further days out here and luckily, the speed world record is still obtainable.”
A safe entry
Blazing red flares upon their entry into the harbour, a large group made up of technical support members, local well-wishers, ardent supporters and family were there to welcome the tired crew back to solid ground with cheers, burgers and beers – a huge change from the months of strict discipline and rations they endured on the rowboat.
The crew has raised around £200,000 ($320,000) for a British charity which assists young disabled people to achieve independence, Enham Trust. Initially aiming to land in Mauritius, the crew had to detour to avoid extreme weather conditions at sea, forcing them to amend their destination to a safe harbour much further away in the Seychelles.
The four men celebrate reaching Seychelles with flares on Wednesday September 10, 2014 (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY-NC
Family members of the four men present to welcome them at the Eden island Marina in Seychelles on Wednesday September 10, 2014 (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY-NC
The team leader, Jamie Sparks and fellow rower Luke Birch in February this year won the distinction of becoming the youngest rowers to traverse the Atlantic. After deciding he wanted to do another such adventure in the Indian Ocean, he began to look for team-mates, some of whom had only just met in the few months before setting off.
Speaking to a journalist at the local daily newspaper, the Seychelles Nation, Alex Simpson described the journey as “quite a challenge” but praised the teamwork of his fellow rowers.
“Not once have we argued during the 73 days at sea. It is my first visit to Seychelles and to be seeing a place like Seychelles after spending so many days at sea is just wonderful,” he enthused. “We are planning to stay over for a few days to enjoy the Seychelles. We all have our specific date of going back and I am planning to leave for the United Kingdom on September 17.”
The Fast Row West crew - Alex Simpson, Angus Collins, Hamish Khayat and Jamie Sparks. (Fast Row West/Facebook) Photo License: CC-BY