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Cape Town To Rio: 7000km Solo Atlantic Row For The Environment

  • 4 min read

Capetonian Zirk Botha, an ex-naval combat officer and adventure racer, will undertake a solo row to Rio de Janeiro, leaving Cape Town in December 2020, in support of the environment and climate change, and juwi Renewable Energies South Africa, is sponsoring his feat.

The Atlantic crossing will require Zirk to row completely unassisted for approximately 90 days, over approximately 7000kms (3800 Nautical Miles) over an often treacherous and unpredictable ocean.

The juwi vision of “100% Renewable Energy” in support of building a healthy sustainable environment, is well aligned to Zirk’s physical challenge, which will rely completely on his own strength, withcritical support of power via solar panels and batteries to power his equipment for the crossing.

Greg Austin, Managing Director of juwi South Africa, says that Zirk’s crossing epitomises the way juwi is taking the lead in innovation and breaking barriers for the environment. “We wish Zirk all the best for the row – his pioneering spirit, courage, grit and commitment to the environment are qualities that juwi respects and fully aligns with.”

Rowing for a sustainable future

“I want to use the challenge to spotlight the impact of fossil fuels and irresponsible consumerism on the planet which will be the future home of our children and future generations. Renewable energies are essential to a sustainable future,” says Botha, who also works as a manager at juwi.

“For my solo row from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro I will be 100% self-sustaining for over three months. This provides a perfect showcase to support a message that 100% renewable energy is a practical option. In fact, in this case it is the only viable option: I will be totally reliant on solar-charged batteries as the source of electricity for my water maker (desalinator), auto-pilot, safety equipment, radio and satellite communications equipment.”

“My professional position as Economic Development Manager at juwi, equips me to speak with knowledge regarding the competitive costs, job creation and practical benefits of renewable energy. The platform that the ocean crossing creates will allow me to drive home the message that the increased uptake of renewable energy is a key solution to the climate change challenges faced by our planet.”

About the challenge

Ocean rowing is considered to be the ultimate challenge of human endurance. More people have climbed Mount Everest than have crossed an ocean in a rowing boat. “I will have no supporting safety boat, and I can expect to experience large waves and swells travelling across the southern Atlantic,” says Zirk.

“I will row for 14 hours a day on average, expecting to take 100+ days to complete the crossing to Rio.The energy requirements are significant and staying well-hydrated is very important – I will probably consume 10 litres of water and 8000 calories of food per day.A normal person consumes approximately 2500 calories a day. Even so, I expect to lose over twelve kilograms crossing the Atlantic.”

Botha says he is trainingextremely hard. “I’m rowing intensively, plus doing weight and endurance training, but Iknow that my biggest challenge will not be physical, but rather mental.”

Preparing for the crossing

Botha has built his boat, almost single-handedly, and has just completed installing equipment including solar panels, navigational and satellite equipment, and a desalinator. The construction of the ocean rowing boat is based on a revolutionary design by Phil Morrison, an esteemed Naval Architect.

Botha is currently doing the requisite safety tests on open water to obtain a Certificate of Fitness for the boat, and is in training with his rowing coach, Derrick Read from the Cape Coastal Rowing Club based in Simon’s Town

The boat has been named “Ratel” which is Afrikaans for honey badger, an animal known for its courage and tenacity.

A maritime and adventure background

Botha served as a Naval Combat Officer in the South African Navy, where he alsoqualified as a Combat Diver. During his time in the Navy, he completed three Atlantic crossings. He is also a qualified 200T Yacht Captain (Master of Yachts) and has sailed extensively.

Botha is an avid adventure racer, competing in many multi-day non-stop events that comprised trail running, rock climbing, river rafting and mountain biking. His many adventures include trekking the Himalayas, and stand-up paddle boarding through the Okavango Delta, of Botswana.