Challenge of ocean rowing is up there with all the extreme events

Ben Gaffney and Orlando Rogers arrive in Antigua

Ben Gaffney and Orlando Rogers arrive in Antigua - Credit: Archant

As of April 9, 2020, a total of 566 people from 41 countries have gone into space. Of those, three people completed a sub-orbital flight, 562 people reached Earth orbit, 27 travelled beyond low Earth orbit and 12 walked on the Moon.

Ben Gaffney (left) and Orlando Rogers (right) in Antigua

Ben Gaffney (left) and Orlando Rogers (right) in Antigua - Credit: Archant

As of the beginning of 2019, 4,833 different people have summited Everest for a total of 8,306 summits and 288 people have died attempting Everest on all routes.

As at January 11, 2020, there have been 858 attempts to row an ocean and 544 rows have been completed. A total of 1,079 ocean rowers have successfully rowed an ocean including 70 individuals, who rowed an ocean/oceans more than once solo, in pairs or multi-crew teams and 276 rows are recorded as incomplete and nine ocean rowers have been lost at sea.

The challenge of ocean rowing is up there with all the extreme events and has become a major attraction for those seeking adventure and a test of stamina.

The first recognised ocean row in modern times was in 1896 when two Norwegian-born fishermen rowed the 18ft wooden dory 'Fox' from New York to France, seeking fame and fortune.

Orlando Rogers (left) and Ben Gaffney (right) in San Sebastian de La Gomera in 2007 before the race

Orlando Rogers (left) and Ben Gaffney (right) in San Sebastian de La Gomera in 2007 before the race start - Credit: Archant

The trip was George Harbo's idea. The 32-year-old merchant seaman had emigrated from his native Norway to New Jersey. There he earned a hard living dredging oysters but got his taste of the American dream too. The dream could be his, if only he thought big enough. And what could be bigger than rowing across the Atlantic?

Harbo soon persuaded his clamming partner Frank Samuelson, 26, to join the adventure. The newspapers of the day covered the attempt as a novelty.

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Following an eventful and colourful journey they made landfall at St. Mary in the Scilly Isles. They slept on the boat and continued to La Havre the next evening, crossing the Channel without incident and arriving on August 7, 1896, 62 days after leaving New York.

Harbo and Samuelson's more demanding route from west to east across the volatile North Atlantic has only been repeated 18 times.

Ryan Barter (left) and Shaun Pedley (right) in San Sebastian de La Gomera in 2015
before the race s

Ryan Barter (left) and Shaun Pedley (right) in San Sebastian de La Gomera in 2015 before the race start. - Credit: Archant

The duo's record was finally bettered in 2010, when a team of four finished the same route in just under 44 days. But Harbo and Samuelson's legacy will never be eclipsed.

Torbay can boast of some fine ocean rowers and prominent among them was Simon Chalk, who became a prolific ocean rower making no less than nine ocean rows.

Along with George Rock aboard 'Cellnet Atlantic Challenger' he competed in the first Atlantic Rowing Race from Tenerife to Barbados, the brainchild of Sir Chay Blyth, in 1997 in 64 days and five hours.

Simon then rowed solo across the Indian Ocean aboard 'True Spirit' from Kalbarri, Western Australia to Rafael Island in 107 days.

Harbo and Samuelson aboard ‘Fox’ in 1896

Harbo and Samuelson aboard Fox in 1896 - Credit: Archant

He then bought the rights to the Atlantic Rowing Race through his company Woodvale Events and organised the race until 2012.

He also organised the first Indian Ocean Rowing Race in 2009 as well as skippering independent crews across oceans.

Royal Marines Ben Gaffney and Orlando Rogers of Torquay competed in the 2007 Atlantic Rowing Race crossing the Atlantic aboard 'Go Commando' from San Sebastian de La Gomera to Antigua in 55 days and nine hours. Sadly, Orlando was killed in an air accident in 2011.

As a member of Simon Chalk's 2011 independent crew of 14, Shaun Pedley of Paignton, more well known for skippering Our Joe-l around the calmer waters of Tor Bay, rowed the Atlantic aboard 'Britannia III' from Puerto Mogan, Gran Canaria, to Port St Charles, Barbados in 42 days, 17 hours, 54 minutes and into the record books as the youngest person to row the Atlantic at that time.

Simon Chalk

Simon Chalk - Credit: Archant

Shaun then teamed up with Ryan Barter to compete in the 2015 Atlantic Rowing Race aboard 'Sic Parva Magna' rowing from San Sebastian de La Gomera to Antigua in 44 days, 13 hours, 43 minutes.

The 3,000-mile Atlantic Rowing Race, organised by Newton Abbot-based Atlantic Campaigns and labelled The World's Toughest Row, has become an annual event starting in San Sebastian de La Gomera and finishing in English Harbour, Antigua.

After taking over the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in 2012, they have taken it forward to become a safe and successful ocean rowing race.

The next annual race is due off on December 12, 2020. Full details are available from nikki@atlanticcampaigns.com

Each crew will row in excess of 1.5 million oar strokes over a race and rowers row for two hours and sleep for two hours, constantly, 24 hours a day, crossing the 3,000 miles of the Atlantic!