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Cape Town adventurer to be the first person of colour to row Atlantic alone

Ryan Jacobs, adventurer and photographer will be rowing from Cape Town to the Caribbean next year. Photo: Ryan Jacobs.

Ryan Jacobs, adventurer and photographer will be rowing from Cape Town to the Caribbean next year. Photo: Ryan Jacobs.

Published Dec 6, 2021


Cape Town - Cape Town adventurer Ryan Jacobs is taking on the mammoth task of becoming the first African person of colour to row the Atlantic Ocean on his own.

The trip will see 35-year-old Jacobs rowing from Cape Town to the Caribbean, specifically Barbados.

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Jacobs has got the go-ahead from Guinness World Records to attempt to break the current record for sailing the Atlantic Ocean.

The record was set by Erden Eruç from Turkey, who rowed solo across the Atlantic Ocean, non-stop, for a distance of 9 314 km (5 029 nautical miles).

He started at Namibia and ended at Venezuela, after a journey lasting almost 154 days.

Jacobs said he wants to push the boundaries, “If I said I want to row the Atlantic from Cape Town to Brazil like other South African rowers, it’s nothing special. I’m coming out here and I’m saying there is a lack of representation in the outdoor space. If I do less, people are going to take me for a fool. So I want to go further, I want to be better.”

Jacobs said representation in outdoor and extreme sport is sorely lacking with people of colour not being seen, he wants to change this narrative.

“I went to bookstores in Cape Town and I went to the adventure sports section, this is Africa but I only saw two or three people of colour featured there. There are dozens of books in that section, the majority are white men, very few are women, and the bare minimum are people of colour and for me that’s ridiculous,” Jacobs said.

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“I think there are so many barriers in South Africa still, this type of sports is exclusive whether it be financial or geographic but a lot of these spaces aren’t very welcoming to people of colour,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs hopes young people will be inspired by his world record attempt. “I want to inspire young people. I think representation is important not just in the adventure sports or outdoor space but I think it’s important for young people of colour to see what is possible, to see what they can do and maybe this can be translated into many other fields but representation only works when there’s equity involved,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs will be naming his boat “Dala”, taken from the popular saying “Dala what you must”, he said this is to reclaim this adventure as his own, as part of the culture and language.

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“Dala belongs to me, it belongs to you, it belongs to the millions of people like us who for so long have been denied the fact that Kaaps is a language and our culture is real,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs has launched a fund-raising campaign to have his Epoxy Ocean-rowing boat built by yacht builder, Wayne Robertson.

He plans to raise R500 000 for the boat alone. The fund-raiser is on Jacobs’ website: He plans to make the journey next year.

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Related Topics:

Cape TownRowing