Ocean is more ancient than the mountains, and freighted with the memories and the dreams of Time.
H. P. Lovecraft

First Atlantic Solo Crossing
First Woman to row across the Atlantic
First Double Atlantic crossing
First Woman to row from mainland

The Historic Rows

Apart from the crossings made by large ships captained by the likes of Columbus, Cabot, Magellan, Vespucci and Drake, there have also been those intrepid explorers who either set sail or rowed much more precarious vessels across the Atlantic.

About 500 A.D. St Brendan and a few other brave monks set out in a leather skinned, canoe shaped, traditional Irish round-bottom boat. They returned with tales of crystal pillars, giant sheep and mountains spewing fireballs. Although it sounds like fiction the fact remains, it can be done. It seems certain that the priests got as far as Vinland as the Vikings referred to the lands south of Vinland as Greater Ireland. In 1976, Tim Severin recreated both the vessel and voyage.

In 1000 A.D. the Vikings, perhaps emboldened by the plucky priests, set sail and landed in North America. Both these trips were coast hugging voyages, which is not surprising when you consider the terrifying vastness of the ocean.

After Columbus ‘discovered’ America, crossing the Atlantic seemed to be fair game for men bent on empire-building for their respective home nations.

It wasn’t until the summer of 1896, that two young clam digging Norwegians loaded supplies into a small open skiff called ‘Fox’ and left New York for St Mary’s Scilly Isles off the southwest coast of Cornwall, England. They entered history as the first pair to row across the Atlantic. It took them 55 days. Their lack of safety equipment alone is quite frightening when you consider the rules regarding safety equipment today. If they got into trouble there was no way to get help. There was no such thing as dehydrated food in 1896 and the weight of tinned food for two men for 55 days would have been high. What did they do about fresh drinking water? ‘Heroes’ doesn’t even begin to describe these two men. Despite the hardships they must have faced they continued on to Le Havre, France.

First Atlantic solo row crossing

Days: 180
1969 John Fairfax. British. Gran Canaria, Canary Islands – Hollywood Beach, Florida.

First Double Atlantic non-stop, unassisted Atlantic crossing

Days: 145
2012. Charles Hedrich. French. Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, near Canada – Canary Islands – Martinique, Caribbean.

First Woman to row the North Atlantic

Days: 81
1999. Tori Murden. American. Tenerife, Canary Islands – Guadeloupe

First Woman to row the Atlantic, mainland to mainland

Days: 150
2006. Julie Wafael Angus. Canadian. Lisob, Portugal – Costa Rica

The History of The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge

In 1966, Sir Charles Chay Blyth was in the middle of the Atlantic enduring hurricanes, fifty foot waves, and near starvation. He was rowing across the Atlantic with a friend of his, John Ridgeway. To pass the time they were chatting, as one does, about the task at hand.
“This has been quite fun really, all things considered.” Chay remarked.
Ridgeway shot him a look to see if he was being sarcastic. He wasn’t. For a brief moment, Ridgeway wondered if Chay was beginning to feel the effects of a distinct lack of food. He looked down at his own hands. The blisters were now quite solid callouses. What with the deep tan he’d acquired and the thick layer of salt that perpetually covered them, they looked remarkably like the hands of an eighty year-old man – one who slept under bridges. He looked up at Chay with a smile, “It certainly has.”
“Be a shame to keep it to ourselves.” Chay said lightly. They drifted for a while, watching the swell rise and fall around them. “Say we turned it into a race, offered a prize, think anyone else would be interested?”
“I reckon most people would do it even if there wasn’t a prize.”
“Insanity. You can’t look at the Atlantic and say, I think I’ll pull the dinghy out and row across that, unless you’re crazy.”
They floated along for another five minutes. The water slapped gently against the hull. “So you think it’s a good idea then?”
“I think it’s brilliant, Chay. I’ve got an even better idea – put the kettle on, let’s have a cuppa.”

I’m guessing that the idea for the Atlantic Challenge may have happened something like that. Only Sir Chay Blyth and John Ridgeway could tell us for certain. It’s true that the idea did come to Chay during that epic voyage. But it was thirty-one years later that the idea became reality. The first entrants in the Atlantic Rowing Race, set off in 1997 from the Canary Islands and rowed their way to the West Indies, a distance of approximately 3000 nautical miles.

After that, the race, owned by Challenge Business Ltd. ran every two years. In 2003 it was bought by Woodvale Events Ltd. Nine years later Atlantic Campaigns SL, La Gomera, Canary Islands bought the rights and with the sponsors firmly behind them changed the name to The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge – The World´s Toughest Row. After this year’s event in 2015, the race, which has become wildly popular, will be run every year. I guess there’s a lot of insane people out there who can’t resist the lure of the sea.

Fastest Person to row the Atlantic
Age of Oldest Solo Rower
First Person to row the South Atlantic
Age of Youngest Solo Rower

Fastest Person to row the Atlantic

Days: 35
2007. Charlie Pitcher. British. La Gomera, Canary Islands – Barbados

First Person to row the South Atlantic

Days: 100
1984. Amyr Klink. Brazilian. Luderitz, Namibia – Salvador, Brazil

Oldest Person to row the Atlantic solo

Days: 74
2014. Jean-Guy Sauriol. Canadian. Canary Islands – Barbados

Youngest Person to row the Atlantic solo

Days: 70
2010, Katie Spotz. American. Dakar, Senegal – Georgetown, Guyana

The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.

Jacques Yves Cousteau