The ORS Int. is the official adjudicator of ocean rowing records for Guinness World Records


Extracts from the book


Good Luck
Ahead of Me...
Rowboat Calling...
With My Head...
And If All This ...
Indelibly Inscribed
Do You See...
The "Heavenly Bum"
One Second Longer

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Good Luck

July 5
On the weather front, the days followed one another in dreary succession. A warm, steady rain fell endlessly on Choshi. The expedition sank slowly into a state of total torpor…

The date of my departure seemed more problematic with every passing day, and I suggested to several people who had come out to cover the event that they ought to fly home. My well-meant suggestion was greeted with a great hue and cry of protest. Having come all this way, there was no way they were going to leave until they had seen, and duly recorded on film, my actual departure. I yielded to their vehement objections, only to find a few days later that they had completely reversed themselves and felt they must leave immediately. The endless drizzle, the depress-ing site, and the unbearable wait had broken their spirit.
From time to time I had myself driven to the lighthouse, situated on top of the cliff that dominated the port, to pose for publicity pictures. There we would exchange pleasan-tries as I would gesture grandly out to sea, toward Amer-ica. . . but my heart was no longer in it. We joked and laughed, which was meant to keep our minds off our prob-lems, but deep down I was riddled with doubt.
The wisest thing would be to put off the crossing until next year. The only problem was that I felt like a diver who has been standing too long on the edge of the high-diving board: the longer I stayed the less I wanted to climb down the ladder. Or, to push the analogy further, I felt like the diver who keeps moving to higher and higher boards, up-ping the risk each time he does.
I never alluded to the idea that we might postpone the trip. I knew if I did, it would get me thinking that it was a real possibility. Instead, my mind was still obsessed only with the idea of departure. Without realizing it, I now understood that I had been pumping myself up, day after day; without that constant self-motivation, there was no way I could bring the project to fruition. For months, even though I was clearly and constantly aware of how hard the crossing would be, all I could think of was the final goal: my arrival at the other end, somewhere on the West Coast of the United States. For months, I had no longer really been of this world: my every thought, my every act, had been focused on that objective. There was no way out. It was not as if I were simply in the starting blocks. It was as if the race were already underway.
To be sure, if my main goal had been to make sure I would end up in some prominent position in the record books, it would have made perfect sense to postpone the trip and leave under better conditions. But I didn't give a damn whether my exploit ended up in the Guiness Book of Records, sandwiched somewhere between the smallest man on earth and the champion hotdog-eater. My only public was myself. I was my own sole spectator and judge, for the simple reason that I was the only one who could appreciate the full price of victory.
In posing this challenge to myself, I had set out to reach a goal that I imagined was just barely possible, perhaps even beyond my own presumed limits. Why, then, should I turn my back on these profound self-imposed motivations by postponing the trip till next year on the grounds that it would be easier then and that no one but me would know the difference?
Day after day I kept pushing back my absolutely final departure day, well beyond the earlier "final" dates I had set. I couldn't help remembering that virtually all of those earlier "final" dates had, as they came and went, struck me as dangerously late.
July 10
The sky seemed to be clearing, the weather predictions were right on the money…

The sea was calm, the winds had fallen. For a long time I gazed out to sea, where a number of ships seemed fixed on the horizon. A visit to the weather bureau con-firmed that the bad weather was moving off to northern Japan. No storms were expected for the next several days…

…at the local barber shop… I got a shave and a haircut. It was a symbolic gesture; before I go into combat, I need to feel that I look my best…

For my last night on land, I repaired to a small wooden house that the Takasses had placed at my disposal. For company I had a hardy troupe of mosquitoes and a shot of whisky. My baggage was all packed: the bag of clothes, forever impregnated with the stench of the befouled boat basin, was packed and ready for shipment back to France; my own bag, much smaller, was also zipped up and ready to be stowed on board.
Until one in the morning I wrote a number of brief letters and postcards. I found it hard to put into words what I was feeling. Then I put in a call to Cornëlia. I tried to be as reassuring as possible, telling her that the good weather had finally returned, that the boat was shipshape, …that I would be in contact with her frequently. But she was not taken in by this. Flow could I lessen the impact of that brief but overwhelming phrase, "I'm leaving tomorrow"?
That calm and solitary night in the Takasses' dollhouse reminded me of what soldiers must have felt the night before going into battle. I was fully aware of the formidable ordeal that lay ahead. I was not simply setting out to sea; I was setting forth to battle. And the enemy was the ocean itself. In the surrounding darkness, I felt as though I were recharging my batteries, refocusing my energy and atten-tion on the upcoming combat. I knew how tough a fight it would be, and I needed to be alone tonight, to concentrate and prepare for it. My friends had felt that as well, and I knew that, as I lay here by myself awaiting sleep, they were bedded down beside the Sector, each lost in his own thoughts.
A night, too, to grapple with my own solitude, and make it mine. Before it seized me in its own invincible grip.

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