Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 16 July 2020

Rowers eye second Atlantic record bid in 2020

Discussions are under way for Row4Ocean team to attempt crossing in under four weeks

An exhausted Patrick Bol on board the ‘Year of Zayed’ trimaran. The rower said the team succeeded in highlighting plastic pollution in the oceans. Courtesy: Row4Ocean
An exhausted Patrick Bol on board the ‘Year of Zayed’ trimaran. The rower said the team succeeded in highlighting plastic pollution in the oceans. Courtesy: Row4Ocean

Four rowers who narrowly missed out on crossing the Atlantic in under four weeks are planning a second world record attempt in 2020.

The squad from Dubai, which was led by Dutchman Patrick Bol, fell agonisingly short of the record in January 2019 after experiencing steering issues from a faulty rudder in their Dh1.8 million vessel.

What was all the more remarkable was Mr Bol had surgery for a hip replacement in 2017 before taking on the transatlantic challenge.

The team fell 1,200km short of their target after the boat’s rudder failed for a third time three weeks after setting off.

Although family commitments will prevent him joining the 2020 record attempt, Mr Bol is convinced a few design tweaks to the team’s rowing boat will be enough to secure success second time around.

“The team has unfinished business with this challenge,” he said.

“The boat is back in Dubai having some repair work done.

“The rudder will be repositioned to be underneath the boat, rather than behind it, as that was where we were having major issues.

“There will likely be a different departure and arrival port this time, to give a better angle for the wind and currents.

“It was difficult for me to commit to another attempt, but the other three guys will give it another go in December 2020.”

Mr Bol said a 16 per cent improvement in the boat’s performance could be possible, once improvements are made

A new route from Mauritania and Guyana will also make the most of favourable currents and winds, he said.

The team of rowers is likely to include Britons Andrew Ruinoff, Matt Wilds and Lewis Knollman, who will attempt the 4,250km crossing from West Africa to South America within 27 days.

If completed, it will be the fastest transatlantic crossing, beating the current record of 31 days and 23 hours set in 2011.

The Row4Ocean team aimed to increase understanding of the damage done by microplastics in the seas.

During the 2019 Senegal to Surinam crossing, the men collected 28 water samples to assess the levels of plastic in the sea.

Those samples are now being analysed to reveal the full extent of ocean contamination.

The 2019 project aimed to support a recycling programme in Karachi and a clean-up operation of the Indus River, one of the most polluted in the world.

Political unrest in Kashmir made it difficult for the Row4Ocean team to complete the initiative in Pakistan, so the project has now switched to the Philippines.

Discussions are under way by organisers to aid a similar clean-up in the Pasig River that runs through Manila.

The creek has become a huge open-air dump, used by residents to deposit tonnes of plastic waste every year.

Mr Bol will not be joining the 2020 challenge, despite feeling few ill-effects from his Herculean efforts last year.

“After my hip operation I asked the surgeon in 2018 about the possibility of me performing 700,000 strokes in a rowing boat to cross the Atlantic,” said Mr Bol.

“He took an X-ray to check on my fitness and said all was fine. I’ve had no issues at all with my hip since.”

In the UAE, hip replacement is one of the most common orthopaedic operations, with surgery often having life-changing results.

“There are no set rules when it comes to hip replacement,” said Dr Matthias Honl, the surgeon who operated on Mr Bol at Burjeel Hospital for Advanced Surgery.

“Patients frequently approach us asking for a total hip replacement because they want to compete in an Iron Man event or similar challenge, so this case was not unusual.”

Updated: December 31, 2019 06:47 PM

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