Adventurer suspends global rowing attempt

EIGHTY days into his epic challenge, a Suffolk adventurer has taken the difficult decision to pack up his oars and head home.

Lizzie Parry

EIGHTY days into his epic challenge, a Suffolk adventurer has taken the difficult decision to pack up his oars and head home.

Oliver Hicks, from Thorpeness, set off on his quest to become the first person to row solo around the world.

He left Tasmania, Australia, in January and was planning to circumnavigate Antarctica at about 55 degrees south latitude across the Pacific through the dangerous Drake Passage past Cape Horn and then down to the Southern Ocean.

But the 27-year-old announced the “bitterly disappointing decision” on his blog over the Easter weekend.

He said: “After many weeks' deliberation it is with a heavy heart that I must tell you that we will be suspending the Global Row in New Zealand. The main reason is our incredibly poor progress…our mileage made good is miserable.”

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In 11 weeks Mr Hicks has covered a distance of 1,600 nautical miles and is still 160 nm short of reaching New Zealand.

Travelling in a straight line the same journey from Tasmania to New Zealand is roughly 800 miles, meaning at current pace he would complete the challenge in roughly five years, rather than the expected 18 to 22 months.

Problems with the two tonnes, 'Flying Carrot,' the red rowing boat specially designed to carry Mr Hicks on his adventure have hampered the attempt, with slow top speeds.

And iceburgs drifting from the Ross Sea have also caused problems, some measuring up to 5km long, making manoeuvring around and avoiding them very difficult.

Mr Hicks added: “It would be belligerence and folly to continue regardless into the deep south in our current state.”

George Oliver, Mr Hicks' agent, said continuing the journey would have been far too dangerous due to the hazardous icebergs in the region.

“Obviously it is with a very heavy heart we are abandoning the row, we went for it as best we could but progress has been such that we could not go any further, it is just too dangerous with the ice coming in from the Ross Sea,” he said. “Olly is an adventurer and wanted to do as best he could, but as Shackleton wrote in his memoirs to his wife it is better to come back an ass than not come back at all.”

But despite the set back Mr Hicks and his team are not giving up.

He said: “I am making for NZ where we will have a beer and then go back to the drawing board. All options will be looked at in order to try and complete the Global Row.”

Mr Oliver said the team would assess the situation in New Zealand, possibly using it as a base to make a few moderations to the boat and crew and set off again on a second attempt in a few months.

Failing that, the team will return to Aldeburgh and re-assess the plans for the next Global Row.