Oar-inspiring: Olympic rower completes equator crossing in 7:16

Olympic rower Guin Batten has completed her solo crossing of the Zero Degree Channel in 7 hours 16 minutes, setting a world first for the 60 kilometre passage between Huvadhoo Atoll and the island of Fuahmulah.

The 42 year-old silver medallist, who also holds the world record for her solo row across the English Channel, said she was awed by the excitement, enthusiasm and knowledge of her local supporters, 200 of whom were waiting on the beach at Fuahmulah when she arrived.

“It was a bit tricky getting through the rocks, but when I arrived I was given flowers, a coconut to drink, and many, many handshakes,” Batten says.

A crowd gathers on the beach of Fuahmulah for the arrival of rower Guin Batten.
A crowd gathers on the beach of Fuahmulah for Batten's arrival.

“I got back in the boat and went round to the harbour where the entire primary school was waiting – there was probably 500 people there too.”

The crossing itself was “picture perfect” – although surrounded by “terrific thunderstorms”, an “amazing show of light and sound”, none came close and for most of the journey the water was “calm and silky clear.”

“The weather was perfect, with very long, rolling three metre waves. It was pleasant and calm – you wouldn’t have known you were in the middle of the Indian Ocean with three kilometres of water under you,” Batten says.

Setting off in the early morning darkness on Tuesday, Batten rowed at a constant speed of about 8.5-8.7 kilometres an hour, a “jogging pace” that meant she only needed to drink three litres of water “and half the food I thought I would need” during the crossing.

Rowing in the darkness was “surreal”, she says. “We spend our days sitting in front of screens and machines, but out here you feel alive. It was something you don’t do everyday.”

Batten was accompanied by her support vessel, the coastguard and a fishing dhoni – “about 40 people who looked like they were having such a good time” – together with dolphins and a pod of pilot whales.

The Maldivians on the fishing dhoni came to her rescue at one point, five to six hours in, “when I started feeling low. It was a real bad patch,” Batten says.

“I had to think really hard on different things every 2-3 minutes to take my mind off the pain in my hands and body – you don’t make good decisions like that. But the locals on the dhoni got the music and the drums going and started dancing, then threw a bucket of water over me.”

She is full of admiration for the local fishermen who helped the vessels navigate the reefs and currents out of Huvadhoo Atoll, one of the most technically difficult parts of the crossing.

“Their local knowledge and experience was so impressive,” she says.

Batten and her rowing vessel.
Batten and her rowing vessel.

“After two hours I couldn’t navigate using the island and had to steer off the support boat, which was stressful. The skipper had a really hard job working to keep the course.”

With Batten exhausted by her journey and being draped with garlands, some of the locals took the opportunity to have a row in her boat.

“One of the girls [who had a go] was a natural – she looked like she would’ve picked it up in an hour,” Batten says. “One thing I really felt while I was doing this challenge, was that rowing is a common language.”

With her hands shredded by blisters (“here in the humidity the skin becomes soft”) caused by over seven hours at the oars and wearied by thousands of handshakes, Batten now intends to enjoy some of the Maldives’ more traditional tourist pasttimes.

“I know I said previously that I wanted to do some exercise before lying on the beach – well now I’m quite happy to do just that.”

President Mohamed Nasheed said last week he was “delighted” that Batten had become the first person to row solo across the Zero Degree Channel.

“I hope her efforts will be a catalyst for the revival of rowing in the Maldives,” he said.

Batten’s world-first attempt at the zero degree crossing was supported by UK-based NGO Friends of Maldives, with assistance from British Airways, Coco Palm Resorts (Maldives) and Crew Room.

Images provided by Umair Badeeu.


7 thoughts on “Oar-inspiring: Olympic rower completes equator crossing in 7:16”

  1. I guess this is the second time Minivannews has reported on this.

    I wonder what is new about this whole event.

    Is it because the crossing was timed? Or is it because it is done by a woman? Or is it because it is done by one person? Or is it because it is done by a European? Or is it because it is done by a 42 year old silver medallist?

    Or is it because it was organized by Friends of Maldives who was founded by David Hardingham who is now the owner of Minivannews?

    People have live in Maldives for over 2000 years. During that time, Maldivians have moved from one island to another in boats that are either rowed or driven by wind.

    It was only after 1971 that dhoni or boats in Maldives started to get mechanized.

    I'm sure Maldivians have rowed longer distance in shorter time than Batten. I have heard Maldivian women taking turns to row large dhoni when there was no wind. I have heard adventures of people who rowed in the dark seas alone.

    When they rowed there were no support boat, coast guard fishing dhoni, people to throw water buckets or music and dancing around.

    And there weren't garlands and 200 people and a whole primary school to recieve them too. And no kurumba too.

    Now suddenly Batten comes here to row and all this media hype for her as if this is something terribly new.

    It seems the only way to revive rowing in Maldives is to bring Batten.

    So I hope the time and resource spent by the government and Maldivians on her is worth something to the Maldives.

    (BTW, here in Maldives people would come out to watch anything and even if they don't like it)

  2. congratulations on your crossing guin! you have inspired many of the youth to one of the old "almost disappeared" past-times of this nation...and hopefully it will be one more thing that will help keep them away from drugs...many thanks 🙂

  3. Definitely inspirational…thanks to Ms. Batten for choosing Maldives and for the exposure. Ofcourse as Shaya have mentioned our ancestors have moved from one island to another in small row boats even in deadly weather and most probably must have crossed the zero degree channel many times. And I think specially in my personal opinion what is so phenomenal about her is that it is people like her that even today keeps the memories of the courageousness and bravery of our ancestors alive even if it is through a sport. Madivians should have actually adopted this sport a long time back and should be competing and setting out records, as we are surrounded by all water and we are linked to this sport through nature and history. I thank minivan news for bringing the news twice because it is a big deal and hopefully Maldivian men and women, both would too adopt this sport in the future.


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