The Impossible Row is Officially Underway

Last week when we checked in with the team of rowers attempting to cross the Drake Passage in a rowboat they had just set out from Chile to reach their starting point on Cape Horn. They had spent the early part of the month preparing their watercraft, getting their gear and supplies organized, and putting the final touches on the expedition before heading out. From there, they loaded of the rowboat — affectionally known as Ohana— and set sail for the start. Over the weekend, the boat was dropped into the water and the team has now officially gotten underway, first making very good time and later running straight on into the difficulties they’ll face in the Southern Ocean.

Officially known as The Impossible Row, the team of adventurers taking part in this expedition include Colin O’Brady, Fiann Paul, Cameron Bellamy, Jamie Douglas-Hamilton, Andrew Towne, and John Petersen. Some of those men are experience rowers who have tackled oceans before, while others are still learning the intricacies of the sport. They’ll certainly get their fill on this journey however, as the Drake Passage — and the greater Southern Ocean in general — will provide plenty of hard lessons. This stretch of ocean is amongst the most difficult and unpredictable of anywhere in the world, with big waves, strong winds, sudden storms, and cold temperatures.

The row got off to a good start, as the team was able to cover 111 miles (178 km) of the 600 mile (965 km) journey in just the first two and a half days of the expedition. Yesterday however, reality set in when strong winds hit their position. According to an update posted to social media, the team has had to deploy its sea anchor in order to hold ground. The winds are blowing at such a high rate that making forward progress was nearly impossible, particularly when mixed with 20 foot (6 meter) waves. This caused the crew to abandon the oars — which they’ve been manning 24 hours per day so far — and take refuge inside the boats two cabins. The goal now is to wait out the strong winds, without giving up to much ground, before continuing towards the Antarctic Peninsula.

Originally, O’Brady and company expected the expedition to take roughly 21 days to complete. Having knocked off a significant portion of that in the first few days, it was starting to look like it wouldn’t take as long as estimated. But, the Drake is a fickle stretch of ocean, and the row will only get more difficult the further south they travel. Right now, it looks like it’ll come down to the weather and ocean conditions to determine just how fast they can travel.

We’ll continue to keep an eye on their progress over the next few weeks and share updates from time to time. You can get updates yourself on O’Brady’s Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook pages if you’d like.

Kraig Becker