With less than 100 miles to go, Team Uniting Nations, a four-man crew from four different nations is on the verge of shattering the existing record for rowing across the Pacific Ocean from Monterey, California to Honolulu, Hawaii, a distance of 2,400 miles, in the Great Pacific Race.
The existing record of 43 days, five hours and 30 minutes was set in the inaugural Great Pacific Race in 2014. The goal of Team Uniting Nations is to reach Honolulu in under 40 days.
Throughout the grueling race, the teams have had to endure high seas, strong winds, cold meals, seasickness, fatigue, hurricane warnings, and cramped quarters.
Each boat has small front and rear cabins, used for sleeping and for storing equipment and supplies. They also have the latest technology that allows them to communicate with race officials and loved ones, receive updates on weather conditions, and help navigate the fastest course.
Team Uniting Nations has averaged over 60 miles per day, while rowing in pairs around the clock in 90 minute shifts. In addition to being just a few days away from breaking a world record, crew member Fiann Paul of Iceland has an excellent chance of becoming the first person to simultaneously hold the ocean speed records for rowing across the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans. The remaining crew members are Skipper Cyril Derreumaux from France, Thiago Silva from Brazil, and Carlo Facchino from Santa Cruz, California
The Great Pacific Race is the brainchild of Race Director Chris Martin from Great Britain. Martin, 35, is an accomplished rower who competed in three World Junior Championships and six World Rowing Championships for Great Britain. In 2010, Martin and a crewmate set a world record for becoming the first team to row across the North Pacific Ocean from Chosi, Japan to San Francisco. In 2011, Martin created a company called New Ocean Wave which established the Great Pacific Race in 2014. This is his second go-round at the helm of the biannual race.
On June 4th, when the teams took off into a West Coast sunset, Louis Bird, 24, of UK, from Team Sons of the Pacific, began his dream to connect with his father who was lost at sea on June 3, 1996. His father Peter Bird, was the first man to row solo across the Pacific from San Francisco to The Great Barrier Reef in Australia in 1983. He was lost at sea while on his fourth attempt to row across the Pacific from Vladivostok, Russia to San Francisco.
Louis Bird admits that he is probably the most inexperienced rower in the competition. Fortunately, his crewmate Erden Eruc, who lives in Seattle, is one of the world's most accomplished rowers. Eruc has successfully rowed solo across three oceans and is the holder of multiple world records. Upon his return home, Bird will be making a documentary about his legendary father, his own ocean rowing experience, and his quest to develop a deeper bond with his dad.
Approximately 400 miles behind Team Uniting Nations in the classic fours division is Team Moana Uli, with Skipper Tim Spiteri, a police officer from Australia, Greg Vlasek, an accomplished rower from California, and Brian Conville, a builder from Ireland onboard. The fourth member of the crew, Tina Neill-Sanderson from California sustained an injury to her shoulder earlier in the race and needed to be removed from the boat by the support yacht Galen Diana.
Currently leading the highly competitive classic pairs division is Team Row Aloha with crewmates Todd Bliss who lives in Hawaii and Rick Leach who lives in Northern California. Not far behind Team Row Aloha is Team Sons of the Pacific, and currently in third pace in the classic pairs division is Team Fight the Kraken with rowing coaches Vicki Otmani from Pennsylvania and Megan Biging from Southern California onboard. The three boats in this division are separated by less than 100 miles.
Team Uniting Nations is hoping to have their toes dancing in the sand of Waikiki Beach by 6pm on Thursday, July 14th. The remaining teams should be arriving within one to three weeks. Seeing Waikiki Beach is a breathtaking experience for anyone visiting Hawaii. But I doubt that anyone visiting Hawaii this summer will be able to look upon this beautiful beach with greater feelings of joy and satisfaction than the rowers aboard the boats competing in this year's Great Pacific Race.