Row, Row, Row Your Boat: 67-year-old Halfway Across the Southern Ocean


Stroke, stroke, stroke…that’s the cadence being uttered (under his breath) by Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov, who’s now halfway through his solo rowboat circumnavigation of the Southern Hemisphere.

As reported in Expedition News, Konyukhov is making the first-ever trip aboard a specialized rowboat called the AKROS, leaving Dunedin, New Zealand, in December. He’s now made it halfway, with his latest report saying he has reached Cape Horn, South Africa.

According to his website, Konyukhov has rowed 4,125 kilometers so far through some of the most formidable ocean water in the world (he reports swells as high as 33-feet). In so doing, he has also set a number of records; the longest journey across the Southern Ocean in a rowboat – 62 days (the previous record was set by a Frenchman Joseph Le Guen– 59 days); at 67, he is also the oldest solo ocean rower in the world.

Paddling Life visited his website to glean some more information on the adventurer, where his subscribers are  invited to submit questions for him to answer. Below area  few highlights:

Are you scared?

Konyukhov: Any normal person is scared in such a boundless landscape and so far from civilisation.  But I am used to it and know what to do in such situations.

Why are you doing this?

Konyukhov: This how I live, this is my purpose in life – to explore our planet, myself and the world around me.

How does just one centimetre of hull withstand such conditions?

Konyukhov: The hull of the boat is made out of a composite “sandwich” (an external layer of carbon fibre, polystyrene and an internal layer of carbon).  The underwater section of the hull is also reinforced with Kevlar, which is also used in bulletproof vests.  So far, the boat has withstood the strain.

What happens if the boat capsizes?

Konyukhov: The boat is built to return to an even keel in the event that it capsizes.  We deliberately conducted a rollover test in May of last year in England.  However, we conducted the test without all of the equipment or antennae attached.  Theoretically it should return to an even keel, but it would be better to avoid capsizing in these latitudes.

Is there a lot of plastic and rubbish in the Southern Ocean?

Konyukhov: No, I haven’t seen any plastic in the Southern Ocean – not a single bottle or plastic bag – despite being so close to the surface of the ocean.

How many stories tall was the tallest wave you saw?

Konyukhov: I haven’t deliberately measured the height of the waves, but when I reach the crest I can see very far.  It feels like I am on the captain’s bridge of a ship.