Rowing solo across an ocean is one of the most challenging and lonely endeavors that anyone can ever attempt. After all, no matter which of our planets oceans you choose, you’re looking at weeks alone out on the open water, pulling the oars for hours on end while facing unpredictable weather and wild seas. Thats exactly what rower Charlie Pitcher faced when he set out on his solo crossing of the Atlantic last month with one goal in mind – become the first person to make that journey in less than 40 days. When he arrived in Barbados last week, he did just that, smashing the previous world record in the process.
Pitcher began his journey on February 6 in the Canary Islands just off the coast of Africa. Ahead of him sat 2900 miles of open ocean and a constantly running clock. His stated goal at his departure was to beat the Atlantic speed record, held by Andrew Brown, of 40 days, 9 hours and 44 minutes. A tall task to say the least. Bad weather, choppy seas and a physically demanding routine could all conspire against him to prevent a successful crossing, let alone a new speed record. All of those challenges manifested themselves at various times during his voyage, but he still managed to achieve both of his goals – cross the ocean solo and do it in record time.
Upon arriving in Barbados on March 13, Pitcher posted an official time of 35 days and 33 minutes. That means he didn’t just beat the old record, he smashed it by more than 5 full days. Along the way, he averaged more than 82 miles per day, which is an incredibly good pace for a solo rower. It wasn’t all easy going however, as his boat capsized on two occasions and was knocked over four other times. 18 days in he also began to his a physical wall due to pushing himself too hard in the early weeks of the row. He was able to gather his strength and refocus however, pushing through the second half the row more efficiently.
Pitcher’s 6.5-meter long boat proved to be the perfect vessel for seeing him safely across the Atlantic. Made from carbon fiber, it features solar panels for powering various onboard equipment and water purifiers capable of converting as much as 25 liters of saltwater into freshwater per hour. The boat also has the ability to right itself after it capsizes, something that is critical for the safety of those onboard.
Now that he has completed his quest to break the Atlantic speed record, Charlie now intends to return to his first love – ultrarunning. In the past he has competed in the 151-mile Marathon Des Sables, a legendary event that takes place in the Sahara Desert each year, and he has helped launch a new long-distance running event in Scotland. But first he’ll need to leave his sea legs behind and get ue to being back on dry land once again.
[Photo Credit: Charlie Pitcher]