When asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, George Mallory famously replied, “Because it’s there.”
That question, and those three words in response represent both awe and arrogance – the awe Man has in the face of nature’s immensity and fathomlessness, and the arrogance to conquer it.
And perhaps there was a bit of awe and arrogance in the Row2Rio team, who left dry land in Portugal on January 9 and stepped into a rowboat that could barely fit the four of them uncomfortably, and embarked on a nearly 2-month journey, rowing southwest across the Atlantic Ocean to get to Brazil.
On April 23rd, after 56 days alone in the vastness of the ocean, Jake Heath, Mel Parker, Luke Richmond and Susannah Cass, completed the second leg of their epic human-powered Odyssey from London to Rio de Janeiro. The first leg was by bicycle nearly 1,500 miles, from London to the Portuguese port city of Lagos. The third leg, which will commence next week, will also require them to cycle for about a month south to Rio de Janeiro, and their final destination.
Rowing and cycling their way across continents and oceans is clearly not a walk in the park. So why are these four doing it?
Olympic Pride: “The Atlantic was in the way but we thought that crossing it might be a way of linking the two host cities,” Jake Heath told BT News. Adding that he had also been inspired by the “fantastic feelings and sense of pride” felt when London hosted the Olympics and Paralympics four years ago.
Fight Cancer: The Row2Rio team is raising funds for the non-profit organization, Macmillan Cancer Support. In this Daily Mail article, Ms Parker said: “For me, the best day on the boat was finding out that a very close relative of mine had been given the 12-month all clear from cancer. “There were definitely tears on the boat. It has been a tough year, not made any easier by me rowing the Atlantic. The support we have received from Macmillan has been incredible. We all realized in our own ways that we need to give something back – it’s time to payback the kindness we received, with this challenge of a lifetime.”
Inspire: Heath again explained in the same Daily Mail article why this journey has been important to him. Mr Heath, who has four nephews under the age of four, added: “I wanted to do something that would inspire my nephews. I would quite like to be the cool uncle Jake. I think it is better to have youngsters who are interested in exploring and seeing the world, rather than just looking at it on the internet.”
Here is a news clip from Brazilian TV, showcasing the team’s arrival in Brazil:
What does it take to go from London to Rio on human power? Physically fit, mentally strong, well organized fanatics on a mission.
On January 9 of this year, 2 men and 2 women got on their bikes and cycled over 2,400 miles from Olympic Park in London to Lagos, a port town in southern Portugal. On January 31, they left Lagos and started rowing a 8.6 meter long boat called a Rannoch R45, which can house four or five people uncomfortably, allowing three people to row at the same time. They are currently close to the halfway mark rowing a total of 3,600 miles with the intent of hitting land at Recife, Brazil. From there, they will cycle down the Brazilian coast to Rio de Janeiro, which should take another four weeks.
The mission is raise awareness of the upcoming Rio Olympics, making the literal connection between the past 2012 Olympic venue with the future 2016 venue. But on the way, they are raising funds for cancer research, as well as their journey’s operations.
The four team members are:
Susannah Cass: a 27-year old PhD student of botany from Dublin
Jake Heath: a 29-year old podiatrist from Twickenham
Mel Parker: a 27-year old fundraiser for a children’s charity from Gloucestershire
Luke Richmond: a 31-year-old cross-fit and Olympic lifting coach from Australia
And their posts on the journey rowing south 24 hours a day are fascinating:
Luke Richmond, Day 1-3: It was a brutal first day and night, sea sickness had three of us spewing all at once, only Jake seemed un effected. I was sure I was about to die.
Jake Heath, Day 1-6: The trip so has been life changing already, because I have realized how much you can push your body, if you can keep breaking things down on the small tasks, like the two hour stretch in front of you. I am currently switching inwith Luke every two hours for 24 hours a day, as we row our way across to Brazil. The girls are also switching with each other, every two hours, but staggered by one hour with us, so everyone gets to spend some time together.
Jake Heath, Day 7&8: We have been on what seems like a giant conveyor belt of water and big waves. It’s all good and going in the right directions for us to reach the canaries in two days and then push on to Cape Verde straight after. The sea swells are pretty big and at night they can catch you off guard and just crash over your head. Last night Captain Susannah caught a high wave, which went all over her, but I luckily was out of the rowing seat having a stretch and remained bone dry. Carbon copy thing happens to Mel the next I shift, this time I was getting a drink and avoided it once again. I know what you are thinking? I promise I am actually doing some of the rowing!
Mel Parker, Day 18: Imagine your bed is 1m by 1m, around your little square of bed you have everything tied to the walls – your wardrobe, toiletries and a few days food. Above you you’ve got all the comms and electronics you could need to get you safely across an ocean. Behind your head you have the worlds noisiest neighbour, which sounds like a robotic Jurassic park, but is working hard to make sure you’re steering in the right direction.
If you’re interested in making a donation to help the MacMillan Cancer Support organization fight cancer, go to this link.