Impossible Row Drake Passage GWR website

How did you spend Christmas Day? Tucking into turkey or slurping endless eggnogs? Well, spare a thought for these six rowers, who chose to spend their festive season on the icy-cold waters of the Drake Passage, rowing between Chile and Antarctica!

A team of rowers attempting to become the first to row the Drake Passage between Cape Horn at the tip of South America and the Antarctic peninsula have been successful. The six-man crew - comprising Fiann Paul (captain), Colin O'Brady (first mate), Cameron Bellamy, Andrew Towne, Jamie Douglas-Hamilton and John Petersen - rowed for 12 days 1 hour 45 minutes, making the first completely human-powered crossing of this treacherous stretch of water.


The row and its official time was confirmed by Guinness World Records' ocean-rowing consultants, the Ocean Rowing Society, who also congratulated the event organiser and captain, Fiann Paul, on becoming the first person to complete Ocean Explorers Grand Slam (that is, the first person to row on five oceans).


"The Impossible Row", as the project is named, saw the team depart from Cape Horn in Chile on 13 December at 12:00 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) and arrive at Primavera Base on San Martin Land on the Antarctic Peninsula at 13:45 UTC on Christmas Day.

This row represents one of the most significant human-powered adventures ever undertaken, and a number of records were established as a result of the row:

  1. First row on the Southern Ocean
  2. First row across the Drake Passage
  3. First row to the Antarctic continent
  4. Southernmost start of a rowing expedition
  5. Southernmost latitude reached by a rowing vessel
  6. Youngest person to row on the Southern Ocean - Colin Timothy O’Brady (USA, b. 16 March 1985) was 34 years 272 days old at the start of the row
  7. Oldest person to row on the Southern Ocean - Fiann Paul (Iceland, b. 15 August 1980) was 39 yrs 120 days old at the start of his row 
  8. First ocean rower to complete the Ocean Explorers Grand Slam - Fiann Paul completed a row of his fifth ocean
  9. Most polar open water rows completed by a rower - Fiann Paul, with three polar rows... Further titles to be confirmed.
On completing his row, multiple record-holder Fiann Paul - the most celebrated ocean rower in the GWR archive - blogged:
The first onset of delirium due to exhaustion and sleep deprivation typical to ocean rowing is often experienced as hallucinating the sound of barking dogs. I often tried to understand what causes our brain to choose this sound in particular and I never managed to find a scientific answer but I found a poetic one:
Just like mad dogs are rolling foam from their mouth, so are the waves at Beaufort 10 winds. 
And on this occasion while crossing the southern ocean I wrote the Seadog haiku:
Beaufort 10
Rolling foam from their mouth
As I found myself becoming a Seadog in the middle of the Drake Passage.

"I've been following this row with much interest," said Guinness World Records Editor-in-Chief Craig Glenday. "It's aptly named as 'The Impossible Row', as I think most of us won't be able to appreciate just how difficult this challenge is. I know that two years of planning has gone into this project, and I'm every moment of it was necessary." 

"Not only is this one of the most feared passages of open water on the planet, but it's freezing cold, the swells can be expected to reach 15 m (50 ft) and the team would have to face 24 hours of constant rowing, with each man taking 90-minute shifts. This is NOT how I would plan to spend Christmas! Congratulations to Fiann, Colin and the team on their remarkable and ground-breaking achievement. Or, indeed, achievements, as this has proved to be a multiple-record-breaking adventure."