Ocean Rowing Facts

The first people to row across an Ocean were Frank Samuelsen and George Harbo of Norway in 1896. They rowed across the Atlantic and left Battery Park in Manhattan on June 6th 1896 and 55 days later arriving on the isles of Scilly covering a distance of 3,250 miles.


British born John Fairfax completed the first solo row across an ocean on 19 July 1969. He rowed the Atlantic from Gran Canaria to Hollywood beach, Florida in 180 days.


John Fairfax along with Sylvia Cook rowed the Pacific from San Francisco in 1976 and after stops in Mexico, the Fanning Islands and Gilber Island in Onotoa they arrived in Hayman Island, Australia after 361 days.


Sylvia Cook became the first woman to row any Ocean after her expedition with John Fairfax and one of her sponsors – a make-up product called ‘Next To Nothing’ used the tag line ‘Woman rows the Pacific wearing ‘Next to Nothing’ in the trade press when she completed her journey.


Most ocean rowers need to consume 5000 – 6000 calories per day to fuel their bodies during an expedition.


British born Peter Bird was the first person to row the width of the Pacific Ocean in 1983. He set off from San Francisco and arrived at the Australian Great Barrier Reef 294 days later. Bird also attempted to row a journey from the west to the east of the Pacific in 1996 but sadly never completed his journey. The Russian Rescue Centre picked up an emergency signal from him on but a few hours later found only his boat capsized and damaged, there was no sign of Peter.


Ocean rowing boats can’t carry enough fresh water for a long journey.  The rowers have to bring equipment to make fresh water out of sea water. Electric powered reverse osmosis units are most commonly used and a decent system can produce 10 litres of fresh water in about 2.5 hours.


The first woman to solo row the Pacific was Roz Savage who completed her journey in three legs. From San Francisco to Hawaii in 2008, from Hawaii to Tuvalu in 2009 and then from Tuballu to Papua New Guinea in 2010.

Most Row boats use solar panels to generate electricity on board.  This is currently the most reliable sustainable system although in bad weather conditions when there is not much sun the level of electricity they produce can become significantly decreased.  This means that the arrival of storms carries numerous risks.


Over 4000 people have climbed Everest but only around 350 people have successfully rowed across an ocean.  Over 100 ocean rowers have been from the UK, which is the leading country for ocean rowing.