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


Rowers Make Great Progress, Prompts New Record Category

19 August 2004

by Alan Pollock

CHATHAM — Just a decade ago, it was a rare feat for a person to attempt to row across the Atlantic. Now, lots of people are trying to attain that goal—and one rower, Emmanuel Coindre, is poised to upset the world record.

In the closely knit, somewhat political community of ocean rowers, that has prompted questions about how the records are defined by the sport’s governing authority, the Ocean Rowing Society.
The current record holder for the fastest west-to-east solo Atlantic row is Gerard D’Aboville, who made the passage from Chatham to France in 71 days in 1980. When he did so, he was without the benefit of much of the technology now used by ocean rowers.
“He did not have a telephone, a water maker or a GPS,” Ocean Rowing Society Executive Director Kenneth Crutchlow said. Neither did the rowers who preceded D’Aboville, who relied on sextants for navigation and bottled fresh water. Modern rowers have equipment which gives them advantages in safety and navigation, and have the benefit of water makers, which reduce the need for heavy, bottled water.
For that reason, the board of trustees of the Ocean Rowing Society has opted to create a new category of modern rowers who employ telephones, GPS and water makers. While it will take some time to determine which rowers rightly belong in the original category, it is clear that Coindre and other contemporary rowers are in the new, modern category.

While the feat of rowing an ocean remains a remarkable test of human endurance, Crutchlow said, modern rowers are at an advantage over their predecessors.

“It just can’t be seen to be the same thing,” he said.
Long retired from rowing, D’Aboville is now a founding member of the Ocean Rowing Society’s board of trustees.

In the new category of modern rowers, it appears that Coindre already holds the record for the fastest solo passage, namely his 87-day crossing from Chatham in 2002. But barring any unforeseen storms or problems, Coindre could shatter that record this year.

His mother, who coordinates Coindre’s effort from shore, said her son is not at all focused on breaking any records. With severe storms and other hardships, she said, Coindre is focused solely on getting ashore safely.

Ocean rowing is a difficult sport to regulate, Crutchlow noted, because while the Ocean Rowing Society publishes guidelines designed to set standards of safety and equity, not all rowers comply with the guidelines. Coindre, for instance, is rowing without benefit of an Argos beacon, which continually reports his position. D'Aboville, likewise, declared victory when he rowed across the Lizard Meridian, an imaginary line at the mouth of the English Channel, instead of following guidelines requiring him to actually row ashore, Crutchlow said.

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