Fedor Konyukhov Nears the Coast of South America

Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov is nearing the end of the first stage of his attempt to row around the world via the Southern Ocean. Still, even as he draws nearer to the coast of South America, he continues to struggle with wind and waves that could conspire to keep him from making it to the finish line. As the remaining miles continue to dwindle, he now faces a new challenge that threatens to end the journey in disaster, even though he is so close to the end now that Fedor can practically taste it.

As of today, Fedor is roughly 555 km (345 miles) from reaching Cape Horn. But, as he points out in his most recent dispatch, he won’t make much progress today or probably over the next few days. The winds are now tracking from the south, which means they are pushing against him, bringing colder temperatures with them. That is keeping him from making any significant headway from reaching his end point at the southernmost tip of South America. In fact, it will probably be everything he can do just to stay in place for awhile.

Still, the ocean rower has made progress to the east since we last checked in with him. He says that he is now just 92 km (57 miles) from the continental shelf. When he reaches that point, he’ll see a significant drop off in the depth of the water and the ocean should waves should calm down some as a result. As he nears the coast however, he’ll have to worry about currents and winds pushing him into dangerous rocks that could smash the hull of his boat. He is painfully aware of this challenge and knows that it would be a tragic end to the journey to get so far and have it all come apart when he is so close to being done.

The original plan was for Konyukhov to be as far south as 55º latitude. But the winds and currents have kept that from happening. Once he’s crossed over the shelf however, he should find it easier to make his way down to that point. He’ll hug the coast for shelter, but not wander too near the dangerous Drake Passage, as he enters the critical phase of the final days of the first stage of his round the world row.

As regular readers already know, Fedor set off from New Zealand back in December and had hoped to have finished this stage of the journey by now. It has taken much longer than he had anticipated, with heavy storms and difficult seas working against him. If he is successful in his attempt to reach Cape Horn, he plans to take a break from the challenge and return to the water later this fall. Stage 2 sees him rowing from Cape Horn to Australia, with Stage 3 set to take place in 2020. That final phase would run from Australia back to New Zealand where he started, closing the circle at long last.

In anticipation of Fedor arriving at the cape very soon, his expedition team has now arrived in Ushuaia, Argentina. They’re keeping a close eye on his progress and staying in contact with officials in the Chilean navy should an emergency situation arise. At this point, Fedor is almost out of danger, as he is close enough to be rescued should something happen. Still, he wants to see this journey all the way through to the end and it would be tragic if something prevented that from happening now.

I’ll continue to keep an eye on Fedor’s progress. He still has plenty of rowing to go before he’s done and the conditions haven’t exactly been cooperative. Still, once he crosses over the shelf things should get a bit better. It could be just a matter of days before he is back on dry land for the first time in five months.

Kraig Becker