During the crossing (c) Rod Mayer
Proud team after arrival at the Waikiki Yacht Club (c) Ellen Hoke
We were proud
Nov 22, 2016
Louis Bird and I successfully completed The Great Pacific Race from Monterey Bay to Honolulu between June 4 and July 29, 2016. We placed first among the “Classic Pairs” class of rowboats with an official time of 54 days 42 minutes which is the new course record in this class.
During the last four weeks that we were on the water, seven storms were named. It was a July for the record books as such storms do not typically form until late in August into early autumn. A warm spot on the waters south of Mexico left behind by the strong El Niño of last year had became the nursery of these storms. Tropical Storm Agatha was followed by the hurricanes Blas, Celia, Darby, Estelle, Frank and Georgette. Agatha, Blas, Celia and Darby weakened when they crossed over colder waters as they progressed west, sending remnant lows toward us.
Fortunately, we had our guardian angels, Dane and Jenifer Clark at Jenifer Clark’s Gulfstream who were tracking such storm formations and regularly informing us. The safety officer for the race committee and also a fellow ocean rower, Lia Ditton offered insights which helped us strategize. While Celia gave us the most trouble as we rowed through its varying strong winds, Darby required the most coordination with Dane Clark and Lia Ditton. This storm was forecast to advance westerly passing south of us then to hook northwest to cross our path. Had we continued at the same pace toward Oahu, we would have been in the eye of the storm in another three days time. So the decision for the three competing Classic Pairs boats was to deploy our para-anchors, effectively stalling our progress. We waited for about 24-hours and when the forecast changed that the storm would advance further west and hit the big island of Hawaii to disintegrate when thrust against the tall volcanoes there, we gathered our anchors and continued rowing. By the time that Estelle, Frank and Georgette were a concern, we were off the water.
There were many emotional moments on our boat as Louis reflected on the memories of his late father Peter Bird, who was a pioneer of ocean rowing. Peter was lost at sea in 1996 while trying to row from Vladivostok to California, a mainland to mainland attempt across the North Pacific, still never done. When Peter died, Louis was only 4-5 years old. Louis was driven to understand the motivations of his father; in a way, Louis too was answering the siren call of the ocean as a first time ocean rower.
I have carried Peter’s logo on my rowboat since 2007. Ocean rowers are a small tribe. As an elder of this community, if not in age but certainly in experience, I was honored to be asked on board this project. I took great pride in providing the peace of mind to Louis’s mother Polly that she would not be receiving another tragic phone call. I am relieved to have delivered on the promise.
Our crowdfunding page, unfortunately raised only a meager amount of $2,650 -- just one tenth of our complete budget. The shipping and handling costs to return the rowboat back to England were about twice this amount. Around-n-Over made up the difference in the S&H costs. All other costs of this successful project were borne by the rowers themselves.