Silver-medal winning Olympic rower Guin Batten has begun final preparations for the first recorded solo crossing of Maldives’ zero degree channel in a row boat.
The 42 year-old British medallist, who holds the world record for a solo crossing of the 30 kilometre English Channel, now intends to row 60 kilometres across the ‘zero degree’ channel that bisects the equator between Foammulah and Huvadhoo Atoll.
Touching down in Male’ on Saturday, Batten and her support team went straight to the meteorological office and decided to commence the attempt around 2:00am early tomorrow morning.
For over seven hours she expects to struggle against the swells, tides and currents of the Indian Ocean in her 35 kilogram rowing boat.
“Seven hours if everything goes right,” Batten told Minivan News, before her trip down to Thinadhoo.
The early morning start offers the best combination of weather conditions, although Batten acknowledges that rowing in the dark will be a challenge.
“Because it’s dark you don’t see the waves coming, but you can feel them rolling under you,” she explained. “There will be a technical element involved, because you lose power if the oars catch the water in an odd way, or you ‘catch a crab’ (miss the water altogether).”
For navigation, Batten has an onboard GPS device in the boat, as well as an ordinary magnetic compass by which to steer. Altogether, “I’m aiming for a speed of 19 strokes a minute,” she said.
Even fluid consumption will be a challenge – Batten will have to consume two litres of water an hour just to replace the fluid lost through sweat. Moreover, her hands are already blistered from her endurance training in the UK in the lead up to the event.
A heritage of rowing
Batten’s attempt at the zero degree crossing is not just a personal challenge, Batten told Minivan News. She is passionate about reintroducing the lost art of rowing to the Maldives, which largely disappeared across the country in the 80s with the proliferation of electric motors.
“Rowing is very technical and different countries have unqiue styles,” Batten explained. “At the moment the people who know [the Maldivian style] are probably 60 years old, so there’s a risk that all that knowledge and understanding could disappear.”
As well as inspiring Maldivians to row, Batten’s team are working on bringing over six boats to set up a rowing club. For now, however, she is focused on what the Indian Ocean may throw at her.
With all it challenges to contend with, she acknowledges that a key goal for her support boat “will be to remind me to have fun. The glass is half full!”
Batten’s world-first attempt at the zero degree crossing is supported by UK-based NGO Friends of Maldives, with assistance from British Airways, Coco Palm Resorts (Maldives) and Crew Room.