Russian rower makes headway after cyclone

Explorer and Orthodox priest Fedor Konyukhov. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Explorer and Orthodox priest Fedor Konyukhov. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Fedor Konyukhov is ''thanking God'' he is alive and well after rowing his custom-built boat through 15m swells and winds gusting over 100kmh in the South Pacific.

The 67-year-old Russian adventurer has crossed the International Dateline and is now 1670km off the coast of Dunedin - almost a quarter of the way through his 7400km journey to Cape Horn, Chile.

But, he admits, the weather conditions are not making it easy for him.

''As you can see from my path, I am not exactly spoiled by the weather.''

He recently rowed through a small cyclone, where the wind circulated 360 degrees.

''The waves were chaotic, the boat was buffeted from side to side and it was difficult to travel forward.

''The might of the ocean is humbling for any person, especially if you are aboard a rowing boat.

''Thank God for everything - I am alive and well. The weather is difficult, but it could be worse.''

Now that he is far enough away from New Zealand, he has entered a ''different weather regime'' and his spirits were lifting, he said.

''New Zealand no longer blocks me from the westerly winds.

''The wind is stable at 30-plus knots and the boat is gliding over the enormous waves at an average speed of 3-4 knots, but sometimes the boat slides down the waves and the speed goes up to 9 knots.

''The ocean is roaring and dragging the boat along its course toward Cape Horn.

''I had a good journey today, travelling an estimated 132km, which is the most I have made in a day since the start.''

He said the ocean appeared to be deserted and he had not seen a single boat in the past two weeks.

''In the Atlantic, you see a ship or yacht every day.

''My friends reminded me that today, the closest people to me are the cosmonauts at the International Space Station - they are currently 450km overhead.''

His row to Cape Horn is the first of three legs in his 27,000km journey from Dunedin, past Cape Horn, South Africa, South Australia and back to Dunedin.

He will encounter icebergs, subzero temperatures, winds over 100kmh and waves reaching 15m.

The second leg will begin in December, from Cape Horn to Cape Leeuwin, in Western Australia, and the third will begin in December 2020, from Australia back to Dunedin. Each leg is expected to take about 120 days.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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