Rowing Across the Atlantic Ocean from Portugal to French Guiana – Georgios Ardavanis (Ph.D.)

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In July 2020, after two months of recovery from surgery, I had only five months to prepare for the Atlantic expedition. Some doctors told me to sit back and take it easy for at least a year. I did not because the time for me is my everything.

At the end of September 2020, I began training every day, putting 30-50 km in my rowing club’s ergometers and rowing boats. At that stage, training was not easy for my mental and body situation. There were a lot of predicaments, especially with my body. My coach, Nikos Koutsobinas, helped me push my mental and body limits to extreme levels. Indeed, I put a lot of patience, discipline, and commitment into my training. I remember some of the younger club rowers were looking at me in awe. How does this man at age 66 do 40 and 60 km daily on the ergometer without getting tired or giving up?

On March 1st, 2021, the expedition began at Portimao/Portugal with the destination Cayenne/French Guiana (3250 nautical miles or 6000 km). Our rowing boat was a typical Rannoch45 ocean rowing boat with the following dimensions: 8.65 meters x 1.80 meters and a net weight of 750 kg. The boat had two cabins at its ends. The front cabin (2 meters x 1.80 meters) housed three rowers. The rear cabin (2 meters x 1.80 meters) housed two rowers as well as some electronic equipment (autopilot, AIS (an electronic device that warned us about a ship approaching our direction), VHF, and batteries charged by solar panels installed on the roof and sides of our cabins). Also, there was a desalination water maker (that equipment was converting seawater into drinking water). Finally, along each side of the rowing boat, there were two chambers (four compartments) where we kept our food (dry food in plastic packages). The total food provisions were approximately 500 kg. We collected the plastic packages in green plastic bags; thus, we were environmentally friendly.
During the expedition, the first three days were very critical for me, considering the rough seas of the North Atlantic Ocean. I took many pills two days before departure and for the next two days to fight the seasickness. Overall, I did not face any problems from the very beginning. Also, it seems that I did an excellent job with my mental preparation. I achieved that by excluding everything and everybody I suspected would negatively impact me with their negative energy. I did sleep on the wooden floor of my bedroom for five months, and I woke up every 2 hours to simulate my rowing schedule during my expedition. I did read a lot, and I did spend some short time with a yogi and a psychologist in Piraeus, Greece.

During the rowing expedition, I let nobody enter my private space and my mind. I was completely isolated from everything and everybody and yet very concentrated on my Atlantic crossing. The five rowers were divided into two teams—Team A with three rowers and team B with two rowers. Every team was rowing alternately. Row for 2 hours, and sleep for 2 hours, row for 2 hours, sleep for 2 hours, again and again with cold, rough seas, and high temperatures, never looked back but always forward. I did not use any motivational quotations to motivate myself during the expedition. I believe that people who use motivational quotes lack strength and cannot care for their own shit. However, because I faced a lot of pains in my body from the surgery, rib injuries (big waves threw me off my rowing sit), and injured wrists, elbows, and hips because of the rough seas, I did use to repeat the following quote, by Lance Armstrong, for the first 15 days of my crossing: “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year. But eventually it will subside, and something else will take its place. Yet, if I quit, that it will last forever”. Every injury or pain after the 15th day had no impact on my body or mind. I knew that it would pass, or I was fighting it with stronger rowing and more pain.
These expeditions require the participant to have a big ego, unlimited mental forces, extreme patience, inner strength, a strong body, and fear. You should not have a fag attitude (meaning entitlement complex/everything should always go their way, victimhood complex/self-pity attitude, hypersensitivity, fear of failure, believing that nothing is your fault, getting angry when people disagree with you). Besides nature, you must deal with the spirit of different human beings, and I believe this is not an easy task in an 8-meter boat for 51 days.
After 51 days and 18 hours, my rowing colleagues and I reached the destination: I became the first Greek and the oldest (@66) man to row across the Atlantic Ocean from continent to continent. Madam Dolores Desclaveliere is the oldest (@53) woman to row across the Atlantic Ocean. We broke the previous mixed crew record, which was 68 days. Overall, the expedition was a life experience and a life discovery for me (to be announced). I want to thank my co-rowers as well as madam Dolores Desclaveliere. Each of them had an impact on me in some way. I want to dedicate this success to the memory of my family.

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