The Atlantic Ocean gets rowed – twice
Charles Hedrich is an adventurer. When one of his adventures finishes he is already planning the next so when the 54-year-old Frenchman pulled into the Caribbean after rowing across the Atlantic Ocean and back plans were afoot for the next adventure.
Hedrich took 145 days to go from Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon (Newfoundland, Canada) to Canary Islands and then turn and head back west across the Atlantic finishing in Anse d’Arlet in Martinique.
Hedrich is the first person to row the Atlantic Ocean there and back without stopping. His official time is 145 days and 21 hours.
Talking to World Rowing from Paris, Hedrich, in fine health and barely worse for wear, described his crossing and his plans for his next adventure.
World Rowing: You had planned food for 180 days, was 145 days sooner than you expected?
Charles Hedrich: When I started to organise this trip it was impossible for me and my team to predict how long it would take, but we were expecting between five and seven months. In the first part of the trip I didn’t get very good weather, but from the Canary Islands to the end I think the conditions were excellent.
WR: Knowing that you were going at a good pace, did you eat more of your supplies?
CH: No, in fact I ate less than I expected to, so I would have been able to spend more than 220 days at sea if necessary.
WR: How would you compare this adventure to your other adventures in terms of the challenge? (Hedrich has also ridden from Paris to Dakar on a motorbike, sailed solo around the world non-stop, climbed Mt Everest and crossed the Arctic and Antarctic.)
CH: I would say this adventure has been one of the best for me. I would put this trip on the same level as, for example, going to the North Pole. For this one the difficulty was the fact that it had never been done before. It was very long. Even in a small sailing boat it is a palace compared to the conditions on this sort of (rowing) boat.
Also all day long you have to be on to it and for this kind of adventure it is important to get good weather and currents. At one stage I wasn’t far from a hurricane. If it had come in my direction I would have had to be rescued and that would have been the end of the adventure.
WR: Did you lose weight?
CH: I was exactly the same weight when I finished but during the trip my weight had changed. After the first ten days I’d lost a lot because at the start it was difficult in terms of rowing because of the danger of being pushed into the coast. And at the same time I was seasick. On a sailing boat I’m never seasick. On a rowing boat I haven’t found the solution to being sick because the boat is so unstable. It was impossible for me to eat. It was not a good situation. After that I recovered and at the end of the trip I was comfortable.
WR: How has it been finding your land legs after 145 days at sea?
CH: Very interesting. When I sailed around the world (122 days) it was no problem to recover my stability. I expected it to be the same this time, but it wasn’t the case. On the first day (on land) it was almost impossible for me to walk. The reason was not due to the loss of muscle but because you don’t walk during the 145 days. On a sailing boat you do walk a little bit to change sails. Now, five days later, I’m fine.
WR: How often were you in contact with someone on land?
CH: I was in contact daily. The man who gave me weather forecasts was daily and I called my wife relatively often. Then towards the end of the trip it was quite often with journalists and the media.
WR: How did you make decisions on what course to take?
CH: I would make the decision but he (the weather man) would give me the updates. We worked together.
WR: Did you miss certain foods while you were at sea?
CH: Nothing special. I was happy to have a drink and have a normal dinner but I wasn’t as focused on food as I had been when we were coming back from the North Pole trip because then I lost more than 15kg in two weeks. In that case it was terrible and we were absolutely focused on food. But this time I was just happy to have a good meal.
WR: What’s next for you?
CH: Before the start of this trip I was already thinking about it. Two of us will do the Northwest Passage in a rowing boat, (from Nome, Alaska to Pond Inlet, Canada), so we have already started planning. We have bought the boat and because we will be on ice and we will need to pull the boat, it needs to be light. We will probably start in June (2013).