Moon Row traverses new waters
As the early morning light filtered across Lake Kariba in Southern Africa, 12 rowers began their journey to cross the world’s largest human-made lake, without stopping. The rowers' aim was to row non-stop, taking advantage of this year's supermoon.
Included in the expedition was 2013 Parmigiani Spirit Award winner James Cook and the Swiss watch-makers, Parmigiani came on board as sponsors of the row. Timed to coincide with August's supermoon, the group of British and Zambian rowers traversed the 250 km length of Lake Kariba, facing hippos, crocodiles and high winds. They arrived just as the sun was setting over the Zambian town of Siavonga, 34.5 hours later.
The Parmigiani Moon Row turned out to be a major challenge as rowers, who were rotating in and out of three triple sculling boats, had to face strong head winds that at times reduced their speed from 16 kilometres per hour to only 2 kph. Big waves forced the crews to bail every ten minutes for parts of the row, but the boats were able to still continue, threading their way past the islands of Kotakota and along the lake's invisible border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“This was truly a team effort, where everyone put everything on the line for each other, overcoming blistered hands, sun burn and heatstroke and the constant fear of crocodiles to achieve the aim," says expedition leader Tim Cook. "We learned a lot about ourselves and a lot about each other. This was a remarkable achievement, by a remarkable group of people.”
The Moon Row idea formed after Cook was part of 'Row Zambezi,' a rowing expedition which took place in 2011 with the goal of rowing the Zambezi River to raise money for the charity, Village Water.
The trip aimed to raise awareness of the need for clean water and conservation with the Moon Row organisers choosing the charities, Village Water and Conservation Lower Zambezi to benefit from the row. The group also wanted to encourage young people in Southern Africa to take up the sport of rowing. This year three of the 12 rowers to traverse the lake were Zambian.
The expedition started with a three-day Learn to Row course in the city of Solwezi and a number of children attended from local schools. The potential of one participant, Kalunga Ngosa,16, was identified during the course and, after just three days of rowing, he managed to join the 250 km expedition as one of the rowers. Ngosa is now the youngest Zambian to row across Lake Kariba.
The course aimed to introduce as many people as possible to the sport of rowing. “Zambia only has one international rowing athlete and he is limited by facilities in Zambia and Zimbabwe. So it is very important to bring young people into rowing to see if we can create a steady stream of athletes with potential. We taught them how to use ergos and also to scull, we created fun competitions, t-shirts and certificates,” says Cook.
Cook was impressed with the enthusiasm the Zambian rowers had for the sport. "They absolutely loved it, especially being part of a very collaborative team that worked very closely together on a tough project. The feedback was that it was a cool thing to be involved in and they want to do more,” says Cook.
Organisers and participants alike will continue to develop the sport in the region. Events are already being planned for 2015 and beyond, making the most of the current momentum that has been created in the region. Luckily the new ambassadors, such as Ngosa, are keen to keep on rowing.
Photos thanks to Hamish Roots/lightoverwater.co.uk