Phil Kite was barely a fraction of the way through his crazy coronavirus lockdown challenge when the magnitude of the task at hand dawned on him. The ocean rower had locked himself in his garage and was rowing two hours on, two hours off, continuously, until he completed 2,000 miles (3,218km).
“On day two, I thought, ‘what have I done?’,” said Kite, who started on May 4 and completed the challenge on May 17. “Particularly when I realised I wasn’t going as fast as I thought I’d go, I realised it wasn’t going to be next Thursday, it was going to be Sunday.”
Kite will attempt to become the first person to row the Northwest Passage with a team in July 2021. The 3,218km route through the Arctic opens up when the sea ice retreats in the summer, linking the Atlantic to the Pacific. Worryingly, the effects of climate change mean it is now open long enough for a rowing boat to make it through. In contrast, the first person to traverse the full passage, Roald Amundsen, took almost three years between 1903 and 1905 as his boat was continuously frozen to a standstill, despite the aid of sails and a motor.
Kite rowed across the Atlantic in 2018-19 and drew on his experience in the garage.
“The first week is very much the same as the Atlantic, you go though these ups and down. Then the second week, you begin to think it’s not so bad. Then towards the end it just seems to drag. The last bit dragged. It was very similar,” he said. “That last 24 hours, that was horrendous. That 2am to 4am shift, I just sat thinking ‘oh God, do I have to carry on?’”
The 11 other Northwest Passage crew members were contributing kilometres on their rowing machines too, helping Kite amass the required distance. They were raising money for four charities – Mind, Stroke Association, Daft as a Brush Cancer Patient Care and St Oswald's Hospice – who are all struggling to solicit donations with charity events like the London Marathon cancelled.
Kite was live-streaming his challenge, which was just as well, given at one point he fell asleep when he was supposed to be rowing.
“I woke up, had a coffee and was sitting on my bed and I fell asleep again while sitting. A friend was watching from Dorset and was messaging to try to wake up me. So, that was the only time I didn't make the start of a shift but someone was watching me,” Kite said.
“I made myself a little table because I realised I wasn’t sleeping. I recorded the number of hours I was sleeping on each shift,” Kite said, realising he was only sleeping for three to four hours a day.
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You've met our #nwp2021 rowers, getting to know and extraordinary team of people has been our delight to share with you over these last few days, but let's not forget WHY.... Phil Kite is finishing his last few miles in the #rowingagarage challenge, he's an exceptional human (rowing 2 hours on, 2 hours off) who is close to raising £2500 for NHS Charities... let's get him over that amount, cheer him to the 2000 mile finish line along with his team mates and celebrate this incredible event. We will be here, LIVE (with a bit of luck) to document this grand finale and we hope you can join us too. Stay tuned! Team NWP #oceanrowing #oceanrowers #raisingfunds #nhscharities #supportnhs #supportfrontlineworkers #arcticexpedition #arcticexplorer #expeditionofourtime #rowthearctic #northwestpassage
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“Once I visualised it, I got my head around it and forced myself to sleep on some of the day shifts and got maybe five hours most days.”
For the first few days, he suffered from pain in his back. Then, he began to chafe on his bottom. But over time his body adjusted.
“After that first Saturday, it sorted itself out and since then it’s just been a dull ache,” he said.
You can donate to the four charities here.
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