Colin O’Brady’s “Impossible Row” Nears Finish Line

As we head into the holiday break here at The Adventure Blog, at least one major expedition that we’ve been following in recent days is nearing an end. Colin O’Brady’s Impossible Row — his attempt, along with a team of five ever rowers, to cross the Drake Passage—is in the homestretch with the finish line in sight. The only question remaining at this point is whether or not they’ll arrive on the Antarctic Peninsula in time for Christmas.

The journey began from Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of South America, nearly two weeks back. The goal was for O’Brady, along with companions Fiann Paul, Cameron Bellamy, Jamie Douglas-Hamilton, Andrew Towne, and John Petersen, to row 600 nautical miles (690 miles/1111 km) across the Drake Passage. The entire expedition is being filmed by Discovery Channel for an upcoming documentary and it mimics a similar rowing challenge that was done back in the late 1980s by American adventurer Ned Gillette. The difference here is that Gillette and his team of three others used a small sail to propel them along. O’Brady and company are rowing the entire way by hand, working the oars for 90 minute shifts 24 hours a day, when they can. 

So far, the team has not only stayed well ahead of schedule, they’ve made good progress too. There have been times where they have had to take shelter in their tiny cabins, deploying their sea anchor in order to not lose ground. But for the most part, they’ve been able to maintain the rigorous schedule, which is why they look like they’re on pace to not just arrive a week before their 20-day deadline, but also match Gillette’s team, which took 14 days to make the crossing as well.

As of yesterday, O’Brady indicated that the team had less than 100 nautical miles (115 miles/185 km), and he was cautiously predicting a Christmas Day arrival. The weather seems to be holding firm at the moment, so there is a good chance they’ll hit that deadline. He and the team are closing in on Antarctica and the end of their adventure and you can get updates from O’Brady’s social media feeds on Facebook and Instagram.

Consider the speed at which they’ve been able to complete this, and the fact that it’s been done before, I guess this wasn’t much of an “impossible” row after all.

Kraig Becker