Two men have just set off on an eccentric and ambitious adventure that, if it proves successful, will see them become the first people to use a combination of wind, oar and extreme pedal power to cross the Atlantic.
And yes, we did mean pedal power. Because Anthony Ward-Thomas and James Ketchell are undertaking the 2930-mile expedition across the ocean to Antigua in a customised pedalo, raising money for the Naomi House and Jack’s Place hospices in the process.
The Kitty Rouge is not the sort of pedalo you might see at the seaside, commandeered by overexcited members of the England cricket team—she’s a fully pimped, ultra-sleek carbon dreamboat, tailor-made for the task by specialist boat builders Rannoch Adventure.
The pair left Gran Canaria on 1 February, intending to follow the same course from Africa to the Americas that Christopher Columbus pioneered during his voyages in the late 15th century, which were long thought to be Europeans’ first forays to the New World (although it’s since been proven that the Vikings were there 500 years earlier).
Both men are veteran adventurers. Anthony (57) has twice biked across Europe, traversed Papua New Guinea on foot and raced across the Mongolian Steppe on horseback. James also knows how to push a pedal, having cycled 18,000 miles around the globe in 2013. He’s been to the top of the planet too, summiting Everest (with a lung infection) in 2011. And he already knows the way across this ocean, after rowing the Atlantic solo in 2010—an expedition that almost ended badly when he had a close call with a tanker, was bitten on the nipple by a fish while leaning over the side of the boat and then ran out of food 230 miles from the Caribbean.
The 32-year-old Englishman’s most recent adventure on the high seas was even more exciting. In July last year he found himself clinging for dear life to the side of a 100,000-ton crude oil tanker in storm force winds, after the tiny boat he was crossing the Indian Ocean in was badly rolled by a monster wave, and his rowing partner, who suffers from severe epilepsy, sustained a serious head injury.
Unfazed by that experience, James was in a confident mood when we met him immediately prior to his departure. ‘The boat is absolutely beautiful,’ he grinned. ‘And we have a secret weapon… A kite!’
By harnessing the wind as well as using their considerable combined pedalling power, the pair expects to complete the voyage in around 45 days. Follow the progress of the Kitty Rouge via their YB tracking device, and read about their encounters with (hopefully non-nipple-nibbling) marine wildlife on their blog.