It has been another HUGE week onboard Maria for our two heroes Mark and Kai! It has been jam packed with significant milestones, extremes of weather and wildlife encounters! Despite the very challenging conditions they have rowed over 450nm and extended their lead on the next boat to a MASSIVE 130nm. Which, in terms of current boat speeds is a 48 hour lead!! These stats make it all sound so simple but let me assure you it has been anything but easy for our Dutch duo!
Why have the conditions been so challenging and at extremes I hear you ask? Well, the week started off with light, prevailing winds and small following seas which made for great rowing. As the week progressed the winds died down further until there was no wind at all. This is extremely hard for ocean rowing. As Mark said in one of his videos this week “It is f&*@ing brutal”. With no wind there is no let up from the ferocious mid Atlantic, mid-day sun and it becomes unbearably hot. There is no assistance from the wind to help the boat through the water and it feels like rowing through wet cement (or to use a cycling analogy … to ride in the baking mid-day heat of the desert while holding your brakes on!). It really is relentless and there is no escape, the only thing to get you through it is hard, HARD work. Fortunately, Mark and Kai aren’t shy of hard graft and quickly adopted a new shift pattern to minimise time out in the hottest part of the day and battle through!
The other extreme in weather came when a huge low pressure system greeted our team creating strong head winds and wind on beam, making a really rough and confused sea state. Initially they had southerly winds that veered round to the west and finally to the north. The winds were forecasted up to 30 knots! You may have seen this on their tracker where they created a bit of a wave like shape as they were forced north west, south west and then due south before being able to pick up their ideal course again. While we don’t know exactly what happened on board during this period, we do know that it was extremely hard work and that Mark and Kai’s invaluable seamanship experience served them well to battle through these exceptionally testing conditions. Their forward progress was only halted briefly and were straight back to producing the awesome daily stats we have become so used to seeing. These two are absolute warriors.
Aside from the extremely challenging weather they have faced, Team Row4Cancer have smashed through the half way marker and are going to rocket through the 1,000nm to go milestone later today, seeing the distance to finish tick over to 999nm will be a magical moment! There is no stopping these two!
To give a small insight into what it feels like to be half way across an ocean in an ocean rowing boat: It is a strange yet amazing feeling. You are suddenly closer to your destination than you are from your departure location. The deep blue water beneath you is over 4,000m deep. You are as far away from land as you possibly could be and the closest people to you are likely to be in the International Space Station (orbiting at 408km above earth). It is a huge milestone in any ocean row but unlike many other endurance events there is no ‘second half is all downhill’ or ‘final straight’… half way still leaves 1,330nm of hard, relentless rowing with many challenges lying ahead. So, it is something that Mark and Kai will have definitely celebrated but with their experience been mindful of that they still have a long way to go! Less experienced crews can focus too narrowly on this milestone and then crumble when they realise there is still so long to go.
The guys have also celebrated New Year on board Maria! What an incredible moment and a New Year neither of them will ever forget! (I did say this week was jam packed with milestones for our team!)
As well as seeing in all of those milestones Mark and Kai saw some truly incredible wildlife this week! They saw a killer whale as well as a 2-metre-long marlin!! And they also dorados and a big tuna bumped it’s head on Maria. For a minute Mark and Kai feared that Maria was damaged, as it made an awful sound. But fortunately for them they only saw blood of the tuna on Maria (so the tuna wasn’t that lucky). These are serious bucket list encounters and will have without doubt been a magical experience meeting these creatures in the middle of the ocean and on their own terms. The orca, marlin, dorados and tuna will be added to the list of spotted wildlife which currently consists of a pod of dolphins and a shark. We are looking forward to seeing what other sea faring creatures will be added to the list before Antigua.
We have also been treated this week to plenty of footage coming back from the ocean. With both Mark and Kai ‘swimming to Antigua’ as well as wildlife encounters and an insight into the searing heat and flat calm seas – It is so good to see their morale isn’t dented by the huge challenges they are facing. They are persevering through tremendous adversity and through it all they are continuing to exercising their one rule on board … “We always smile and pretend what we are doing is easy”. That is a small insight into the mindset of two peak performance athletes at the spearhead of their craft while leading the world’s toughest race! I am sure we can all take something from this as we head into 2021!
Update from our weather routers
It was a tough week for them where it really came down to muscle strength. No benefit (or sometimes even a disadvantage) from wind or current. The assignment was to row as fast as they can west so that they have the least headwind and are the first to pick up better weather. That paid off last night with an extra 20 miles ahead. In the coming days they still have a little north wind, after which it turns west and it seems that during the week, they will finally pick up beautiful trade winds again and can race to the finish.
We are very pleased to tell you we are € 96 away of ticking the € 40.000 box! That's amazing! But as you know we need to raise € 65.000 to enable the Maarten van der Weijden foundation to start their chosen project. So please keep on donating to our charity. Know that with your donation you are supporting and motivating Mark and Kai in the best way possible! So please donate by clicking this link. On behalf of Mark and Kai, a huge thank you!