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.
The Atlantic crossing will require Botha to row completely unassisted for approximately 90 days, over approximately 7000 km over the unpredictable ocean. It is said that Botha will rely completely on his own strength, with the help of solar panels and batteries to power his equipment for the crossing thanks to juwi Renewable Energies based in Cape Town.
“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. “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 watermaker (desalinator), auto-pilot, safety equipment, radio and satellite communications equipment.”
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 Botha.
“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 training extremely hard. “I’m rowing intensively, plus doing weight and endurance training, but I know that my biggest challenge will not be physical, but rather mental.”
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 design by Phil Morrison, a 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.
Botha served as a Naval Combat Officer in the South African Navy, where he also qualified 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 paddleboarding through the Okavango Delta, of Botswana.