The History

John Fairfax (21 May 1937 – 8 February 2012) a British ocean rower and adventurer who, in 1969, became the first person to row solo across an ocean.

A history of this momentous challenge

The first successful crossing of an ocean by oar power alone was made by two Norwegians in 1896 across the North Atlantic. Frank Samuelsen and George Harbo set off from New York on June 6 in an open wooden rowing boat and arrived on the west coast of France 55 days later. The next successful attempt was made over half a century later in 1966 by two British men, Chay Blyth and John Ridgeway, on a crossing between Newfoundland and Ireland taking 92 days. Three years later another British man John Fairfax (pictured) completed the first solo crossing in 180 days between Gran Canaria and Florida. In all cases these early crossings were made with very rudimentary equipment and limited, if any, modern technology.

Amyr Klink was the first person to row across the South Atlantic, leaving from Lüderitz, Namibia on 10 June 1984 and arriving 100 days later in Salvador, Brazil on 18 September 1984.

On 3 December 1999 Tori Murden of the USA became the first woman to row any ocean solo when she arrived in Guadeloupe, having set off from Tenerife in the Canary Islands 81 days earlier. In March 2006 Julie Wafaei of Canada became the first woman to row across the Atlantic from mainland to mainland.

On 10 July 2005 the Vivaldi Atlantic four-man team (Nigel Morris, George Rock, Steve Dawson, Rob Munslow) set the record for fastest unsupported row from St John’s, Newfoundland to the longitude of Bishop Rock lighthouse, UK. They left on 31 May 2005, arriving back on 10 July 2005 in a time of 39 days 22 hours and 10 minutes. The Vivaldi Atlantic four also became the first four-man team ever to row the North Atlantic west to east. This record still stands as the fastest unsupported row across this 1850 nm North Atlantic Route.

The fastest unsupported row from the US to England was set in 2005 by The Ocean Fours (NL) (Gijs Groeneveld, Robert Hoeve, Jaap Koomen, Maarten Staarink) with the Vopak Victory. They left New York on 27 May and crossed the Bishops Rock longitude 60 days, 16 hours and 19 minutes later. This record was beaten by Leven Brown and his crew in 2010. Their boat ‘Artemis Investments’ left New York on 17 June 2010 and arrived in St Mary’s on the 31st of July 2010 in a time of 43 days 21 hours 26 mins and 48 seconds. Which remains the record to date for the longer 2850 nm and original North Atlantic route.