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16 August 2017

Athletes Breaking World Records As They Row Across The Arctic

A group of rowers have already broken seven world records on the first leg of their 2000km journey across the Arctic Ocean.

The voyage, dubbed the ‘Polar Row’ by Icelandic skipper Fiann Paul, sees a nine-strong crew of some of the world’s fastest rowers travelling ‘south to north’ across the Arctic to try and help raise money for the construction of a school in the Himalayas. The team includes Paul, Carlo Facchino of the USA, Tor Wigmun from Norway, India’s Roy Tathagata, and Welsh rower Jeff Willis, all of whom were involved in the first leg of the journey. The UK’s Danny Longman and Alex Gregory MBE have joined the crew for the second leg alongside Tyler Carnevale from the USA, with Willis having had to back out due to an injury.

It started back in July when the crew departed from Tromsø, Norway, and a few weeks ago they docked at Longyearbyen in Svalbard. By managing a pace of 2.58 knots over the 512 miles, the crew were able to set a new fastest average rowing pace for the Arctic Ocean, far surpassing the original pace of 0.78 knots. Now the men are back on the water again in the process of completing the second leg from Svalbard to Siglufjörður in Iceland.

As well as setting a new fastest pace, the Polar Row team have also set records by reaching the furthest point north – 78° - in a rowboat and having the largest crew to row across the Arctic. Fiann Paul declared these achievements as “unexpected”, but attributed a lot of their success to having more advanced technology than those who attempted such journeys in the past.

“We are spoiled kids compared to him,” Paul said, referring to Russian rower Eugene Smurgis who previously held the record for reaching the northernmost latitude in a rowboat. The luxury of navigation systems, medicine and nutritional foods that the Polar Crew has access to is not something that rowers like Smurgis would have had in their day. However, that isn’t to say that the journey has been smooth sailing.

“We experienced some serious technological setbacks and challenges along the way which took up valuable time and effort to resolve and work around,” Paul added, noting how they had to deal with problems like the boat’s power backup system failing and the fear of losing GPS navigation. With the journey presenting enough in the way of physical and mental challenges as the temperatures continue to hover around freezing, these technological issues definitely haven’t been a welcome addition, but the crew pulled through to make it to Svalbard earlier than expected.

 “The hard work and spirit of the team was outstanding and we pulled together to eventually overcome every hurdle we faced on our epic voyage.”

In just a few weeks’ time the crew should be firmly back on land with what they hope to be eleven world records in the bag. The rest will be much needed after twelve hour days of rowing in 90-minute shifts that offered very few opportunities for proper sleep.

James Darvill

James is a passionate scriptwriter and reluctant poet with a talent for the dystopian. His love for cold weather sports and hiking in the winter gives him the enthusiasm for writing about keeping warm.