Extreme adventurer Zirk Botha will set off a second time on his solo row from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro on Saturday, December 19 at 8am from the Kommetjie slipway.
Botha had previously departed from Granger Bay on December 5, but was forced to return to harbour after severe weather conditions pushed him back.
“The weather conditions are now more consistent – the wind direction is no longer constantly changing and I have 3-4 days of suitable Southerly and South Easterly wind and sea conditions to get offshore and away from the coast,” says Botha.
“Although I’ve had to wait for two weeks, I feel very positive and excited to relaunch my boat ‘Ratel’ and to get going. So, now it‘s a go – all the way to Rio!”
Botha will attempt the 7000km trans-Atlantic row to Rio de Janeiro unsupported, a journey set to take him approximately 100 days in frequently dangerous conditions.
He is the first person to attempt the crossing alone, and expects to row an average of 14 hours a day, covering 20 – 40 nautical miles per day depending on weather.
Botha will follow what is known as a Great Circle Route. “It’s not a direct route from Cape Town to Rio; I first head out in a North West direction to benefit from the prevailing South Easterly wind in Cape Town. After 1000km once I am north of the latitude of Lüderitz Bay in Namibia, and about 300 nautical miles offshore, I turn westerly so I can have the benefit of the wind behind me to take me across the Atlantic. On the Brazilian side of the Atlantic, the wind is North Easterly, so I have to arrive on the Brazilian Coast north of Rio to have the wind behind me to head into Cabo Frio, where the old Rio de Janeiro yacht club is, which is where I will be finishing.”
Sponsored by juwi Renewable Energies, 59 year-old Botha is undertaking the extreme challenge in support of the environment and sustainable development. “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,” said 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 water maker (desalinator), auto-pilot, safety equipment, radio and satellite communications equipment.”
With a background in South African navy as a combat officer and extensive experience as an adventure sportsman, including sustaining and recovering from life threatening injuries, 59-year old Botha believes his life experiences have equipped him to do the row. “The boat has been named ‘Ratel’ which is the Afrikaans name for honey badger, an animal known for its courage and tenacity, which I will need to complete this challenge.”
The physical demands on his body will be severe and his energy requirements significant, so eating nutritionally-dense food and staying well-hydrated will be important to maintaining his strength. “I will probably consume 10 litres of water and 8000 calories of food per day – if you consider that a normal person consumes approximately 2500 calories a day, it’s a lot. Even so, I expect to lose over twelve kilograms crossing the Atlantic,” says Botha.
Botha built his boat almost single-handedly, including installing all the equipment such as 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.
“To prepare for a challenge like this was quite a daunting task – I am fortunate to have the support of sponsors. juwi Renewable Energies is my primary sponsor, and I’ve been assisted with materials and equipment by Novamarine, Aerontech, Saertex, Bulwark, FleetMon and BondiBlu. Plus, Genesis Nutrition and Spar will be supplying me with food,” Botha added.