It's taken 28 months of training, including sleep deprivation, to prepare for a solo row across the Atlantic. Photo courtesy of Peter Harley.

Man, 61, to Row Solo from Va. Beach to France

It has been attempted twice before without success.  But Peter Harley is confident his attempt to row across the Atlantic this month will work. Harley plans to row solo and unescorted from Virginia Beach, Va., to La Trinité Sur-Mer, France as soon as conditions are favorable. The 61-year old Harley, who was born in South Africa but now resides in North Carolina, expects it will take him 3 or 4 months to complete his journey. He will be covering about 4,000 miles. 

He will be rowing a 24-foot rowing scull named Wild Ride.  The scull has actually crossed the ocean before, but with more than one person on board. The boat is equipped with a watertight cuddy cabin, solar power, fresh water system, and satellite communications. The boat will self right itself if it should get rolled over by a large wave. Harley described the carbon fiber oars as “extremely lightweight.”

He has been training for 28 months! Of course he has been rowing Wild Ride as much as possible, mostly on Lake Jordan in North Carolina. He also goes to the gym for strength training, and has been running to improve his endurance. 

The most brutal part of the training is sleep deprivation. Harley plans to row for about two hours at a time, then take a break to eat, rest, and perhaps nap for an hour or two. He has been practicing that two-on-two-off schedule so he knows his body can take it. He won’t have the luxury of a full night’s sleep. “I know the training and practice have not been the same as actually being in the ocean, but this was as close as I could get to the actual conditions,” said Harley. 

Wild Ride will weigh 1.2 tons at departure, as the boat will be full of supplies, especially food. Moving that much weight with oars seems almost impossible, but that is why good weather is critical. According to Harley, “I plan to leave with the ebb tide, also with favorable winds. I need at least two and a half days of perfect conditions to get the boat from Virginia Beach off the continental shelf to the gulf stream.”   

His voyage is also a fundraiser. He hopes to raise a total of $750,000 for three separate charities. The first, called 5 Gyres, uses science, education, and advocacy to deal with plastic pollution in oceans. Next is the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, the world’s leading nonprofit dedicated to the childhood brain tumor community. Lastly, Best Friends Animal Society is a major animal welfare organization that hopes to end the killing of dogs and cats in shelters by 2025. Best Friends operates the largest no-kill animal sanctuary in the United States. 

At the moment, Harley is planning to depart the Lynnhaven River during the week of May 15th.  You can find him on social media, and his track and status updates will be available on his website, northatlanticchallenge.com

-Kendall Osborne