Capetonian Zirk Botha, departed on his 7 000km solo transatlantic record row from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro. He left from Granger Bay Marina. Botha will be the first person to attempt this transatlantic crossing alone. Botha greets his children minutes before he sets off on his gruelling journey. Picture: Tracey Adams - African News Agency (ANA)
Capetonian Zirk Botha, departed on his 7 000km solo transatlantic record row from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro. He left from Granger Bay Marina. Botha will be the first person to attempt this transatlantic crossing alone. Botha greets his children minutes before he sets off on his gruelling journey. Picture: Tracey Adams - African News Agency (ANA)

Tearful goodbye as solo rower heads to Rio

By Sam Spiller Time of article published Dec 6, 2020

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Family and the future of the planet were on solo rower Zirk Botha’s mind as he departed Cape Town for Rio de Janeiro.

The solo rower and former navy combat officer embarked on a 7 000km journey on Saturday morning from Granger Bay marina following a tearful goodbye to his family and friends.

“I’m feeling good,” Botha said. “It’s actually worked out really well with the delays and everything because it was quite a rush at the end of the month. Now I’m ready and looking forward to getting going.”

Capetonian Zirk Botha, departed on his 7 000km solo transatlantic record row from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro. He left from Granger Bay Marina. Botha will be the first person to attempt this transatlantic crossing alone. Botha greets his children minutes before he sets off on his gruelling journey. Picture: Tracey Adams - African News Agency (ANA)

Delays caused by weather prevented Botha from leaving on December 1. “I also had to look at Sunday, Monday and Tuesday,” he explained. “The first three to four days are very critical for getting away from the coast and crossing the shipping lanes. Those were the factors I looked at and decided to wait for it to be optimal.”

Leading up the departure, Botha spent the past few months preparing both mentally and physically. “I’ve been participating in strength endurance training, general body conditioning just to prepare my body for long days of rowing. A big challenge is also on a mental level which is something you can’t train for overnight. It requires a long-term approach and going into this with the right mindset.”

Botha is expected to row 14 hours on average and cover between 30 to 40 nautical miles (55 to 75 kilometres) per day. He expects to consume up to 10 litres and 8 000 calories of food every day.

Botha rowed to a balcony where friends and family said their farewells. Picture: Tracey Adams - African News Agency (ANA)

Upon completion, Botha will set a world record by being the first solo rower to make the transatlantic journey. The trip is expected to take around 100 days. “Talking about it is easy,” he laughed. “I have to get to the finish line first.”

He was travelling in a boat named Ratel which he built himself. The boat is made of closed cell foam covered in laminate and features an array of solar panels producing 276 watts to power all of Botha’s equipment including radio and water desalinator.

The journey is not without cause. An activist for sustainable development, Botha hopes the trip will promote renewable energy sources such as solar power. “The problem is that people only want to push the message that promotes their industry,” he explained. “For 100 days, I will solely be reliant on renewable energy through solar panels. It will be my communication systems, my water maker, everything will be running off solar energy with no baseload.”

Botha added: “For me personally, my biggest growth has been achieved by putting myself out of my comfort zone. As people we need to set big goals and challenges for ourselves, while also using those challenges to promote a message. When we want to make a difference, we need to be prepared to get that message out.”

Just outside the harbour, Botha sets off on his long journey. Picture - Tracey Adams - African News Agency (ANA)

The journey is sponsored by Juwi Renewable Energies. Richard Doyle, managing director of Juwi South Africa said, “This is a personal mission of Zirk who wanted to make a statement about sustainability. We are delighted to align ourselves with him and be one of the sponsors to allow him to do this really remarkable feat, and I hope it will provide vision and considerable thinking in everyone as we face global warming.”

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