In 2005, after 124 days alone at sea Olly (Oliver) Hicks returned to Falmouth having just set two world records: he is the first person to row solo from America to England and the youngest ever, at 23, to row an ocean.
The expedition introduced the British public to an ambitious, brave and new-age explorer. Setting foot on land in Falmouth, Olly was greeted by his sponsor Sir Richard Branson and by his friend Prince William. It was then that Olly announced his new plan: to row solo around the world.
For Olly, the Atlantic was just a testing-ground. Indeed, on this first voyage he was planning the next ‘epic’ ocean adventure – rowing around Antarctica in the Southern Ocean, an ocean row that would take in all the world’s oceans. Fellow explorer, Sir Richard Branson, who had part-financed Olly’s earlier row, came onboard as expedition title sponsor. Google soon followed.
Some 50 days into the row an alarming forecast of hostile ice off the Ross Sea and a realisation that the row would take five years to achieve on a five month supply of food caused Oliver to suspend the row. But suspending a row 1000 miles from land is no simple task.
As plans are time and time again over-ridden by circumstance, Olly had to handle the world’s most challenging marine environment as he diverted towards New Zealand. Determined to make landfall without a full-scale rescue operation, Olly showed the mettle of the classic explorer – enduring frustration whilst improvising to maintain an overwhelmed craft. Just at the point when he knew he must abandon his circumnavigation, unseasonal weather conditions started to propel Olly headlong into the Southern Ocean.
Friend and Project Manager, George Oliver, awaiting landfall in Bluff, New Zealand, urgently commandeered a a Maori-owned fishing vessel to guide Olly back to land in storm force conditions. In the teeth of defeat, Olly nonetheless snatched the record of being the first to row the Tasman Sea from Tasmania to New Zealand, after an incredibly frustrating 96 days alone at sea. Olly has so far spent 2.2 of his life alone at sea in a rowing boat!
Plans are now in place to prepare a different boat for Olly’s next attempt, with work due to begin early in the new year (2012). In the meantime, Olly has successfully completed the crossing of the North Sea from Holland to Shingle Street on the Suffolk coast by kayak. This was to commemorate the crossing made by 6 Dutchmen making a wartime escape from occupied Holland.
Below are some interesting links