Virgin Atlantic today announced that it is to sponsor Oliver Hicks’ attempt to become the youngest and fastest person to row solo across the North Atlantic west to east. Oliver, who is 23 years old, plans to set off from New York, USA on the 23 May 2005 and hopes to make the 3000-mile crossing to Falmouth, England within the current record of 62 days. The youngest person to cross the Atlantic is currently Emmanuel Coindre, aged 29 in 2002.
Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Atlantic, commented:
“Virgin Atlantic is delighted to be sponsoring Oliver in his attempt to be the youngest person to row across the Atlantic solo. I remember fondly my first boat adventure and I can relate to the challenges Oliver will face on his journey. It is a gruelling challenge - both physically and mentally - especially for someone so young. We wish Oliver all the best on his adventure.”
Oliver Hicks also commented:
“I have chosen the optimum route to enable me to make the crossing as quickly as possible - hopefully in under 62 days. This route gives the best conditions for a fast ocean passage due to the favourable prevailing winds and surface currents. I will be hitching a lift on the north-eastern side of the current and winds which will assist my passage to the UK.”
Oliver has chosen to take on the challenge in an Atlantic-class rowing boat, as used in the Atlantic rowing races and it has already proved itself in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans as being robust and seaworthy. It is a self-contained vessel capable of carrying two men and has made the crossing twice already once by David Pearse and Sjaak De Jong. For this attempt Oliver will be travelling solo and the boat will hold all of his supplies and equipment and is self-righting due to the watertight cabins at the stern and the bow.
The most favourable leaving time is in May 2005 but this will be dependent on the weather patterns and forecasts. The weather should give a combination of strong following winds and favourable currents whilst minimising the risks of encountering hurricanes and rogue waves.
The crossing will entail massive physical effort, with more than 7,000 strokes rowed per day, a total of over 400,000 strokes by the end of his challenge. Discomforts will range from extreme cold, severe blisters and hand cramps to strained muscles and salt water boils. Oliver will row non-stop, for about 14 hours a day (weather permitting) for the duration of the row, stopping only to eat and sleep; perseverance and discipline will be key factors in his success.
Rest and shelter are provided in the watertight stern cabin of the boat, this will also house Oliver’s communications and cooking equipment. Food will be in the form of dehydrated ready meals. Water is provided by means of a desalinator. Oliver is hoping to raise as much money for Hope and Homes Children charity - a charity which began in 1994 and gives hope to children worldwide who have nowhere to live due to war or disaster.