Colin O’Brady and his crew have achieved what was once considered impossible — crossing the treacherous Drake passage by row boat.
After launching in early December, in 12 days the six-man team traveled over 600 miles of open ocean, battered by intense winds, giant swells, and stormy weather. The expedition tested the mental and physical strength and stamina of the rowers to their limit, all in a 29-foot row boat.
“Success – It’s official!” O’Brady posted on Instagram after the feat. “At 10:55 a.m. Chilean time today (Merry Christmas, by the way), our six-man crew on board the Ohana row boat completed the world’s first fully human-powered and unsupported crossing of Drake Passage, from Cape Horn in South America to the Antarctica Peninsula. In just under 13 days, we crossed more than 700 miles of some of the world’s most treacherous ocean waters in a 29-foot open hull row boat.
O’Brady, 34, from Portland, Oregon, is an American professional endurance athlete, motivational speaker, adventurer and former professional triathlete. He appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon before the expedition.
“I am deeply and profoundly proud to be a part of this extraordinary team. These guys are some of the most badass guys on the planet. I’m being told that we’ve broken five world records, with three of them being world firsts entirely. We accomplished our audacious goal that many said was unthinkable.
“But it’s not the world records or the accolades that mean so much to me. For me, the success comes in continuing to push the boundaries of the possible, stepping outside the comfort zone, accessing my beginners mind, further tapping into my potential and sharing the journey. And perhaps most importantly, it’s about inspiring others to take on the “impossible” in their own lives.” While he had never rowed a boat before training for the Drake Passage crossing, in 2018 the neophyte rower completed a 930-mile expedition on foot across the Antarctic continent in a controversial 54-day journey. The then 33-year-old called that journey The Impossible First.
The Drake Passage is named for Sir Francis Drake, who in the 16thcentury called it “…the most mad seas” — the result of cold Antarctic ice cap air colliding with the warmer maritime air over the ocean. The result is a vicious storm belt of blizzards, fog and waves spanning 600 miles from the southern tip of South America to the South Shetland Islands. Mariners have long called this region the “Roaring Forties,” “Furious Fifties,” and “Screaming Sixties” for its lines of latitude.
In March 1988, the late American Ned Gillette led a four-man team to row the Drake in the aluminum Sea Tomato assisted by a small sail in 14 days from Cape Horn to Nelson Island.
For more information visit The Impossible Row.