Into the wild blue yonder

Explorer and Orthodox priest Fedor Konyukhov starts his round the world rowing adventure from the...
Explorer and Orthodox priest Fedor Konyukhov starts his round the world rowing adventure from the Otago Heads at 8pm yesterday.PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Once Fedor Konyukhov passes the International Date Line in the South Pacific, his closest and most reliable contact will be the International Space Station.

It was a sobering thought for the 66-year-old Russian adventurer as he was towed out to sea by the coast guard before beginning his row towards Cape Horn, Chile, yesterday.

He said if he was lucky, the closest he would come to human contact might be when two French round-the-world yachties passed him on their way to Chile, after making repairs to their yachts in Dunedin.

Mr Konyukhov is well prepared for the isolation.

New Zealand voyage project manager Denis Craddock said Mr Konyukhov's British-built, 9m-long ocean rowing boat, Akros, would be his haven from the elements.

The self-righting vessel is made from carbon fibre and kevlar and is fitted with solar panels, a wind turbine and an emergency methanol fuel cell to provide power for navigation, satellite tracking, chart plotting, communication systems and a heating system.

It also has a radar magnifier so his small vessel looks like a large vessel to passing ships.

For food and water, he has a desalination plant on board to produce up to 30 litres of fresh drinking water per day, and 900 packs of freeze-dried food from Hamilton-based company Radix Nutrition, which should last him about 160 days.

"He's got chicken curry, wild venison, apple and cinnamon porridge ... there's some creature comforts there," Mr Craddock said.

That begged the next question about toileting and cleaning. He will simply use a bucket to go to the toilet and to wash himself.

While the boat has a spare set of oars, a kit for minor repairs and a first-aid kit, he would be in trouble if he had a major incident on the high seas.

But Mr Konyukhov, an Orthodox priest, hopes divine intervention will help keep him safe.

It is not surprising to see his beads tied around one of the poles holding navigation equipment, and several crucifixes and images of Jesus Christ attached to his boat.

"They're his good luck charms, basically. They seem to have served him pretty well so far."

Mr Konyukhov has circumnavigated the world by sail boat twice and hot air balloon twice, and climbed Mt Everest twice, and is the only person to have reached Earth's five "extreme poles".

"The majority of what he has on board to get him through this journey is willpower. All he does is row. The auto pilot system controls the rudder so he goes in the right direction."

He will row for up to 15 hours per day, with breaks for eating and sleeping. But travelling at 6.5kmh, it will be a long journey.

His row to Cape Horn is just the first of three legs in his 27,000km journey around the Roaring Forties and the Furious Fifties, from Dunedin, past Cape Horn, South Africa, South Australia and back to Dunedin, where he will encounter icebergs, subzero temperatures, winds over 100kmh and waves reaching 15m along the way.

The second leg will begin in December 2019, 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.

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