As a boat builder, I attend the Cape Town International Boat Show boat show every year and it was here that I bumped into Braam who was talking to a group of people on the key side about the expedition. I was interested in the design and construction of the boat and offered my expertise if he needed any help in getting the boat ready for the crossing. Within the next few weeks, one thing led to another and soon the boat was in my factory. Over the following three months many modifications were done to the communication systems and various other gadgets. Because Braam needed an online presence during the row, with the ability to send live sound and video clips, a whole new satellite communication system had to be installed including the power systems to run them. By the time the boat modifications were done Braam was teamed up with another rower. I was training them about safety procedures, radio communication and most importantly navigation and equipment use. There was so much to be done in such a short space of time that I landed up taking on the role of ground crew weather router and project manager of the team.
In the week running up to the departure Braam’s team mate had to withdraw from the expedition which left one rowing seat vacant. As Braam knew that I was an experienced sailor and an endurance athlete, he asked me if I would consider rowing with him. So I had to go and ask management for permission. My wife Cindy’s biggest concern was long term security (What if I did not come home) so first up I had to take out very elaborate life insurance policies to make sure that the family would be taken care of. Once that was done that I had four days in order to learn how to row a boat – I had never rowed a boat in my life before, but I was lucky enough to be introduced to Guy Biscoe, an experienced rowing coach who had been training Braam. Guy knew that he could not train me or improve my fitness levels in only four days so he simply focused on posture, rowing technique, habits and what not to do. Basically I rowed for just three hours training before getting on the boat to do the crossing. Two of those hours were on a rowing machine with Guy filming me so that I could keep a reference on basic techniques. Luckily for me I had 12+ years of martial arts Shukokai karate behind me – which essentially is all about core posture, weight distribution, conservation of movement and being grounded. So it was an easy transition where it all just clicked. I just had to watch my wrist action as it was the most foreign concept to grasp. My biggest concern physically was my back. I had a major spinal accident in 2001 where I crushed my lumber spine in three places while racing downhill MTB. All L1, 3 and 5 vertebrae were broken and compressed to such a degree that I lost 55mm of height. I also collapsed both lungs, broke some ribs and was paralised in both legs. At the time the doctors said that I would never walk again. I never believed them!
KEEP READING from page 62 in Issue 4 of 2018: https://issuu.com/thepaddlemag/docs/tpm_4_2018