World-record rower arrives home

Zirk Botha arrives home in Cape Town.

After 7 200km and 71 days alone on a rowboat – and setting two new world records – extreme adventurer Zirk Botha arrived home in Cape Town on Monday.

Family and supporters gave him a hero’s welcome at the Cape Town International Airport.

Mr Botha completed a solo transatlantic ocean crossing on his boat, Ratel, from South Africa to Brazil in 71 days.

He left from Kommetjie on Saturday December 19 2020, and rowed to Cabo Frio, arriving on Sunday February 28, 2021. He set a new world record as the first South African to row the south transatlantic route alone and unsupported by any safety craft, and for the fastest row from Cape to Rio.

A similar route was previously completed by South African duo Wayne Robertson and Braam Malherbe, in 92 days, in 2017.

Brazilian Amyr Klink crossed the South Atlantic solo in 1984, on a slightly different 6800km route, rowing from Namibia to Bahia, a trip that took him over 100 days.

Mr Botha was thrilled to be home and said he was keen to catch up on time with family for a bit and build up some reserves (he lost 10kg and a lot of sleep on the row, he said).

Wayne Robertson, who rowed to Rio with Braam Malherbe in 2017 in 92 days, congratulates Zirk Botha on his world-record achievement for doing the fastest and longest solo transatlantic row from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro, of 7200km in 71 days. Mr Robertson advised Mr Botha extensively on his navigation and the weather conditions for the row.

He thanked his sponsors and supporters across the world for their messages, which he said had given him great strength.

He was thrilled and humbled by the world records, which had not been his goal but were a happy addition to his achievement, he said.

“I completed a solo row across a route that is extremely remote, in a boat I built myself, and I had no safety back-up boat, as in organised races,” he said.

“As a solo rower I had to deal with all physical, mental and emotional challenges without support or relief. I had to navigate 24/7 with no one else to keep a visual lookout for ships or changes in weather conditions while I slept. So, I could not sleep for long periods and became sleep deprived.

“When I was not rowing, I had to eat, desalinate water, clean the hull and do general boat maintenance, which also impacted on the time I had available to rest.”

Mr Botha was sponsored by juwi Renewable Energies and used the challenge to highlight the need for sustainable development to protect the environment.

“I relied entirely on solar energy to provide power for the equipment on my boat,” he said. “I wanted to prove that renewable energy is the future.”