The preparations started in Lebanon. The voyage began from Perth – Western Australia, across the Indian Ocean, over to the Seychelles – off the East coast of Africa. Nothing but relentless open water with no land in sight for 4,200 Nm (7,700 km). Once the boat departed, it could not turn back for any reason, as wind and current prevented it from doing so.
From past experience, Maxime knows that as with every such endeavour, it is the members’ mental strength and their interaction as a team that will make or break the achievement. Maxime has chosen to lead a three-man team, which he believes boasts the greatest chances of success during tough adventures. His two teammates: LB (UK, aged 40) and SK (UK, aged 32) have the necessary knowledge, skill, experience and will, for this crossing. Both have successfully rowed across the Atlantic and are eager to embark on this epic adventure.
The chosen boat was shipped to Lebanon where its final fittings and tests were done. There, it was stripped of its original paint, re-baptized and branded with the sponsors’ logos. Sea trials were carried-out on the Mediterranean before it was shipped again to Australia for the crossing. Conditions aboard the 29-foot boat were not comfortable, in fact far from it. When not on row duty, the crewmembers tried to recuperate in polyphasic sleep cycles amid damp and cramped conditions. Besides sleep deprivation, slow starvation is inevitable as the rowers’ bodies will not be replenishing the amount of calories burnt from rowing up to 14 hours a day.
The cyclone season is usually over by the end of March. The crossing could take anything from 70 to 95 days. During the first weeks at sea the members’ bodies went into a form of shock. Despite the relentless rocking, they adjusted to the new environment and unrelenting nature of the duties. After that, the trepidation and seasickness would subside as the boat inches westward.
Weather and Capzise Danger
The weather across the Indian Ocean wasn’t the same as that experienced during the Mediterranean sea-trials. The team had to row in high seas, often against wind and current. There was bad weather at some stage of the crossing and there was a chance the boat may be involved in a hurricane. The risk of capsizing was real, but the boat was a self-righting one and the hatches were designed to be hermetic Collision danger.
There is far less shipping across the Indian Ocean than the Atlantic for example. Yet, the latter has successfully been rowed across several times. Sharks, whales and dolphins were common sight, but do not pose any danger of collision (although one of the boats considered for this journey survived a hit by an 800-pound swordfish while crossing the South Atlantic!). There was no support boat, but there was a life raft on board. This was only a measure of last-resort if the boat should sink God forbid, as one only climbs up to a life raft, never down…