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Rowing around the world alone

Ultimate test of man and machine

Fedor Konyukhov is an extraordinary man.

Sailor; Hot Air Balloonist; Trekker (Desert and Polar); Dog-sledder; Rafter; Priest; Artist; Author; Skier; Cyclist; 4x4er; Camel Caravaner and Mountaineer – he has set world records in most of those disciplines.

A Russian national, at the age of 67 (the world’s oldest solo rower) he was further south than any other rowing boat had ever been at 56°40’S – a latitude known as the Furious Fifties – as he rowed the Southern Ocean. Even at that latitude this was no ordinary rowing trip. Fedor spent 154 days rowing eleven thousand five-hundred kilometres from New Zealand to Cape Horn. The longest period of time anyone had spent being thrown around in the washing machine of the Southern Ocean up to that point was 59 days – that earlier record being held by French rower Joseph Le Guen.

Fedor’s extraordinary perseverance can only be imagined: For most of the time on this passage the weather was too extreme to row. Shortly after he set off he realised that the trip was going to take at least twice as long as he predicted. The reason was that in these, the world’s wildest waters, he was at the whim of ocean currents; contrary winds; towering, breaking waves arrived from more than one direction; some having been built up by a previous storm – others by this one. It was too late to turn back, and there were no islands ‘en route’ at which he could call in for recuperation. So with no alternative he plugged away at his objective, succeeding, where others had failed – sometimes in tragic circumstances.

Many things have to be right in order to achieve success: His Carbon Fibre/Kevlar boat was built by Rannoch Adventure who themselves have plenty of ocean rowing experience. His nutrition was provided by Radix Nutrition. His ocean clothing had to protect him from the worst weather, and the strongest surface winds anywhere on the planet in order to avoid exposure. His electrical equipment, too, had to be the best – from the water-maker which would allow him to turn sea water into drinking water; to the Raymarine navigation and communication equipment with which he could plan his route; learn of impending storms; and keep in touch with the outside world.

Fedor had three ways of generating the power required for his electronic equipment: He used flexible solar panels by Russian manufacturer Teemp which claim a remarkable efficiency of 22%. He had two Rutland Windchargers; and a specially adapted EFOY fuel cell power plant which produces energy by reacting hydrogen contained in Methanol with Oxygen. He used two Victron MPPT Solar Chargers enduring that the batteries were charged with maximum efficiency.Fedor lost some of his panels when his boat was capsized in a storm. He describes the movement of his boat during that storm as like an autumn leaf corkscrewing as it fell. This footage of Fedor’s video diary gives we armchair-adventurers a flavour of life alone in the Southern Ocean.

Well, that puts things into perspective! And we’re proud that in some very small way we went with him.

Does Fedor Konyukhovhave plans for another adventure? Well, only that next year he will begin crossing the two great oceans – the Atlantic and the Pacific – in a solar powered Catamaran. As you do…

 

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