Ocean first for British rowers
For four and a half years, Molesey rower Chris Martin, 28, had dreamt of rowing underneath Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge – a fitting finale to his planned record breaking North Pacific Ocean row.
After leaving Choshi Marina in Japan on May 8, Chris and team mate Mick Dawson, 45, achieved their dream, finally arriving at the Golden Gate on Friday November 13 to be the first ocean rowing boat crew to complete this feat.
Rowing around 26 miles a day for 189 days, the pair completed the 5,100 mile long voyage in the 23’ Bojangles, the most technically advanced ocean rowing vessel ever constructed.
Back on dry land, “unreal” and “surreal to be back” were the words used by former GB rower, Chris, to describe his epic journey.
Success was particularly sweet for Mick who had already attempted to cross the Pacific Ocean solo twice. Chris had rowed solo across the Atlantic in 2005.
The distance and the severe weather conditions made this adventure much harder though. A weather system from north to south hindered progress rather than helped blow a boat along – to such an extent that sometimes they found themselves drifting back towards Japan. The only way out was to row harder.
More attuned to rowing harder on a flat 2000m course, Chris said that his six GB rowing medals had taught him to “push yourself harder than you think yourself capable, and to dig deeper”.
Back on the high seas, the last two or three weeks were the worst. Thanks to their fatigue and lack of food, they were moving the boat “significantly slower”.
Now 22kg lighter, Chris said the only thing you can do when times get tough, is to “put yourself in a different place” and focus ahead – a challenge in itself when rowing any vast expanse of ocean.
As they neared land, they spotted seals and dolphins and the colours changed from azure blue to green. Spotting land was a relief but it was also “exciting to see change”.
Gazing around at his friends and family, Chris said, “Molesey is my spiritual home. This means a huge amount.” On the Atlantic race, the only key he took with him was the one for the Molesey doors. “At the end of the day, I always knew that the boat club would be there for me,” he explained.
As for that special moment in San Francisco, he said, “I’ll never be able to look at the Golden Gate Bridge in the same way… ever.”
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The charities Chris and Mick have chosen to support are Hamilton Lodge School, which specialises in teaching deaf children from the ages of 5-18, and Hearts of Gold Children’s Hospice, which helps orphaned children often with life threatening illnesses.
Report by Shane Galway.