Emily Stifler Wolfe of Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation is working with Gregg Treinish and many others to bring us stories from around the world. Here, she interviews Chris Martin, director of the inaugural Great Pacific Race, a 2,400-mile-ocean row from California to Hawaii.
By Emily Stifler Wolfe
Team Uniting Nations has taken their last oar strokes in the 43-day, 2,400-mile row from Monterrey, California to Honolulu, Hawaii.
The winners of the inaugural Great Pacific Race, the members of the four-man crew came from New Zealand, The Netherlands, the UK and South Korea. They hadn’t met before climbing aboard their 24-foot ocean-rowing vessel Danielle this spring.
Of the 13 teams that launched from California in early June, Uniting Nations is among eight still rowing. Team Battleborn, in second, is also closing in on Honolulu, with NOMAN Is an Island in third.
During the race, all the teams are collecting ocean water samples for Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation’s microplastics samples. On July 17, solo-rower Elsa Hammond tweeted, “Doing some sampling for awesome @AdventurScience!”
The only solo left in the race, Hammond was blown so far off course that on July 14—after more than a month of rowing and facing possible tropical storms—she chose to change course and land in Mexico.
The night before Uniting Nations landed in Honolulu, ASC spoke with race-founder and director Chris Martin over the phone.
Interview with Great Pacific Race Director Chris Martin
ASC: What made you want to do this?
Martin: I love adventure. I think it brings out the best in people. Difficult circumstances force you to call upon the best parts of your character. Especially ocean rowing, which is so extreme in some senses—you’re out in the middle of nowhere. It forces you more than other adventures to be incredibly self-reliant and incredibly self-prepared.
ASC: So, how’s everyone doing out there?
Martin: Everyone’s doing pretty well. We had a few significant challenges especially toward the start of the race. A number of crews called it quits, partly because of conditions—the weather battered the crews for the first couple of weeks. One of the most prepared crews called it when they realized they’d bitten off more than they could chew. It happens, unfortunately.
ASC: Tell us about visits from the support vessels.
Martin: It’s always a nice moment [after spending] two to three weeks bouncing around in a closed environment with the other rowers when you see a support vessel. It’s a nice reminder that you’re not actually alone and you’re taking part in a large adventure that’s bigger than just you.
ASC: Are you a rower yourself?
Martin: I’ve had many ocean-rowing adventures myself, and I absolutely loved it. It wanted others to have these experiences.
I rowed across the Atlantic by myself in 2005, from the Canary Islands to Antigua, and that took 68 days. In 2009, I was part of a team of two—the first ever team to row across the northern Pacific from Japan to San Francisco. That took 189 days—just short of six months.
Martin: Yeah. That brings epic and extreme to new proportions.
ASC: Why did you bring ASC on board?
Martin: Adventure has the potential to be selfish… [But] it also has a mammoth potential to be so much more. One way historically that it’s had a positive impact is through giving to and raising awareness for charitable causes.
We wanted to do more than that. [As rowers], because we’re so close to the water, we’re incredibly aware of the impact humans are having on the ocean… Seeing bits of plastic in the middle of the ocean [is] a real loudspeaker for the impact that we as humans are having on the planet.
Follow the racers live, and learn more about the ASC Microplastics Project at our website. The next Great Pacific Race is planned for 2016. Keep up with ASC by subscribing to our blog, and following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+.