by Kirby LindsayIn June 2006 college friends Jordan Hanssen, Dylan LeValle, Greg Spooner, and Brad Vickers attempted to row across the Atlantic Ocean, from New York to Falmouth, England. They made it, in just under 72 days, and raised $50,000 for the American Lung Association in the process.
On December 3, 2011, Hanssen and Spooner will attempt it again, with new teammates Adam Kreek and Richard Tarbill on a southern route – from the Canary Islands to the Island of Antigua in the Caribbean. This time they intend to break a standing record of 36 days, and raise $500,000 for the Right To Play foundation.
No Deli Marts on the Atlantic
Their website, OAR Northwest, contains constantly updated information about their preparations for the 2011 crossing, as well as details about the successful 2006 effort. Hanssen, who lives in Fremont and leads tours here, writes many of the entries – and has a contract to write a book to be published in 2012.
Hanssen has written about the great achievements of the 2006 team, as well as some of their great challenges – such as running out of food. In preparation for the row, the team focused on equipment, not provisions. “Brad Vickers figured it out on day 14,” of the row, Hanssen recently related, “and it took him 48 hours to figure out how to tell the rest of us.”
On day 17 they re-rationed the food, after a realistic assessment of what they had and how long it had to last, and then re-rationed two or three times more. Hanssen recalled about the days after they ran out of sugar - about 10 to 14 days before they reached land. “We started to pop Tums like candy,” Hanssen explained, to Tarbill’s surprise.
The team did have four extra-large Twix bars on-board, that they’d planned to eat as they reached the finish line. “I managed to save mine only through group support,” Hanssen admitted, and they did feast on the chocolate as they reached England’s shore.
What It Takes To Thrive
Hanssen and Tarbill met with me to explain about the row, and what it will take. For instance, they routinely do training rows – around Vashon Island, from Forks to Aberdeen, to Victoria – in preparation. They also plan to have a lengthier training row, sometime in spring of 2011, to San Francisco or Hawaii.
The row from Forks, Washington gave them experience with lateral waves. “Waves coming from the stern can be fun,” Tarbill explained, and more common. Lateral waves rock the boat from the side and, “are more disorientating,” Hanssen admitted. In fact, Tarbill got seasick. Hanssen explained that the first 72 hours require the best physical condition possible because, “if a domino starts to fall…”
During the race, two members will row while two rest, to maintain momentum. If the waters become too rough to row, they can set a ‘sea anchor’ to arrest the motion of the boat and pull the bow into the waves. However, they prefer to stay ahead of storms and use tailwinds to advantage, “that’s an ideal situation,” Tarbill said.
“During the last row, we made a lot of modifications to the boat that have been adopted,” by other ocean rowers, Hanssen stated proudly. The ocean rowing community is very small, with limited equipment options. Tarbill and Hanssen explained that most ocean rowers take flat water equipment – like that used on Lake Union – and beef it up to go on the ocean. Yet, Hanssen stated, “flat water equipment does not work in ocean rowing.” It deteriorates, it’s uncomfortable and it’s unreliable, the men agreed, and not designed for the force, load or give needed for ocean conditions.
Those In The Boat
More important than equipment, for 2011, Spooner, a physical therapist age 31, and Hanssen, age 28, needed two new teammates. They met Kreek, age 29, a Canadian gold medalist in rowing, through boat builders in British Columbia. As for Tarbill, “we had a list – an ‘oh, crap’ list – if one of us got sick or injured,” Hanssen admitted about the 2006 row, and Tarbill, age 28, had stood at the top of it.
Tarbill described this opportunity as, “an affirmation of life,” as he puts, “a lot of the skills you’ve learned in life, and applying them in one big situation.” Tarbill works as a flight test engineer at Boeing on the 787 and 747-8. The row will require him to take time off, and maybe even give up, a job he enjoys but, as he said, “you can’t let things like that interfere in a really great goal. I’m lucky enough that the people I work with are understanding and very encouraging.” He often mentioned, “I’ve got very supportive people in my life, but I’ve got a mother,” as he often faces hard questions and concerns about his participation in this adventure.
For the next year, the team will train - and raise money to purchase equipment and provisions with appearances and gatherings. Half of that money will go to the Right To Play foundation, Hanssen stated proudly. Ultimately, it won’t be an easy trip – either in preparation or execution – for them, but the rest of us can get a vicarious thrill and stay tuned, at oarnorthwest.com to follow along!
- Fremont, By Foot
- by Kirby Lindsay, July 2, 2010
- Rowing Club Cruises Through Changes With Dedicated Crew
- by Kirby Lindsay, May 16, 2007 in the North Seattle Herald-Outlook
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.