Updated: Jan 9
Firstly, wow, wow, WOW!! Mark and Kai are absolutely smashing it!!! We all knew they were going to do well but to be leading the fleet so strongly and so early on is incredible!
While it is hard to know exactly what our two heroes are going through on board Maria we have created an overview to share with you which will hopefully give an insight into their first 7 days at sea.
It has by no means been an easy start! The first 48 hours saw hardly any wind at all, this might seem ideal conditions to some, however it is extremely hard work to drag an ocean rowing boat through the water with little to no assistance from the wind. There is also no reprieve from the searing midday heat and it can feel like rowing through treacle. Also, with no wind assistance we know Mark and Kai will have been putting in a lot of extra hours on the oars rowing up to 18 hours per day!! Just think about that for a second… 18 hours per day! Even sitting at an office desk for 18 hours per day would be exhausting but our heroes are rowing all of that time and they’re rowing hard! Despite the lack of winds Mark and Kai pushed hard in the initial 48 hours and took the lead of the fleet and have since stayed out the front! This is incredible but as a pair this is truly mind blowing!!
Mark and Kai are both seasoned veterans of the ocean and considering the fairly calm weather in the initial 48 hours, they didn’t suffer from seasickness. However, it is important to remember that that doesn’t mean their start was easy, far from it. Our team have had to adapt to the polyphasic sleep cycle (getting your sleep in more than one period within a 24 hour cycle). This never gets easy, no matter how much practise you’ve had! They have also had to row away from the security and comfort of dry land which in itself is highly unnatural and not to be overlooked.
Monday lunchtime the wind started to build so the team have been able to make even better speeds, there has also been a swell from the north west that has at times created confused seas. This is tough to row in as it rocks the boat repeatedly and trying to get clean, consistent strokes in, is a real challenge. There has been little to no moon light this first week so it has been hard work rowing in the pitch black especially on Tuesday and Wednesday night with rough conditions caused by the starboard beam swell. Despite all of this they remain pushing hard and continue to lead the fleet.
How are they doing it? Well, there are a number of reasons that can contribute to their current performance. We all know how much work Mark and Kai have put into building their incredible boat Maria over the last 18 months. She is super light, super well designed and thought through, with no nut or bolt left to question, and she is completely custom made to fit the requirements of our two robust rowers. Mark and Kai have also trained really hard physically and mentally for this row as well as getting professional coaching to ensure they work together effectively as a team. It’s also no secret that Mark is a very experienced ocean rower and sailor, having that knowledge of the ocean and how to maximise the conditions for boat speed is invaluable. They both also possess a special ability to push themselves to the absolute limits of physical and mental endurance. So, Mark and Kai are leading the pack due to a combination of extreme hard work, excellent boat craftsmanship, incredible preparation, solid teamwork and extraordinary seamanship.
Overview from our weather routers
Our weather routers, Dick Koopmans jr. and John Schouten, are advising Mark on what route to follow, keeping weather, currents, risk and the competition in mind and have contact with Mark on a daily base. Despite the calm weather, it’s always a puzzle to find the optimal route. First priority was to get them out of the island’s lee. After that it’s looking for the shortest possible route but at the same time go south far enough to have the advantage of the trade winds.
Dick and John use a polar diagram (as shown on the right side) and weather reports to calculate the optimal route. The current polar diagram still needs to be adjusted but is quite correct. They are continuously watching all points taken into consideration and make some adjustments if necessary. Each day they send their advice via text message to Mark and shortly after that have a call to talk the advice through. So far Mark and Kai have had a high boat speed and a great course towards the finish, so we are all very pleased!
The first € 15.000 are donated, a big shout out to everyone who donated for children’s cancer research! However, we need to get to € 65.000, so the project the Maarten van der Weijden Foundation chose, can start, so please help us raising another € 50.000: https://row4cancer.mvdwfoundation.nl/doneren
We will send a weekly update every Saturday, so stay tuned! On Mark's socials (FB/IG) there are daily updates. Follow Mark there: @markslatsofficial