Every day, slowly but steadily, Kurt and John Schwartz get closer to the finish line. They left San Sebastian de La Gomera in their 24-foot ocean row boat, the Bonny Rey, at 12:05 UST on Wednesday, Dec. 15th, bound for Nelson’s Dockyard English Harbour in Antigua. Approximately 3,000 nautical miles separate the Canary Islands from the Caribbean, and we will track their journey the entire way, updating this post regularly if not daily. The most recent update will be at the top; scroll down for status reports and observations from earlier in their voyage.
Please remember that 32º North rows for The Samfund. You can support their efforts by supporting their cause. Visit their Flipgive fundraising page to make a direct donation or to Shop & Support The Samfund.
DATELINE. . . SOMEWHERE IN THE ATLANTIC
Friday, March 3, 20:43 UTC: Welcome home! Kurt & John Schwartz pulled the Bonny Rey across the finish line at 4:43 p.m. local time, but it could very well have been sooner. As their last text from sea reports, they could have made land earlier but elected to wait. “Well . . . just when you think we saw it all . . . we got our weather! Tore through the remaining 300 miles only to overshoot the arrival times of our family and friends arriving in Antigua, which means we spent the last 24 hours trying to slow down dramatically. I think we have bought the fam an extra day but, damn, that’s some irony! 47 miles left. See you tomorrow Antigua! Woo hoo! Talisker called and confirmed that by crossing the 61st degree we “officially” have rowed the Atlantic (according to) some governing entity (maritime?).”
The Brothers in the Boat rowed 2,811 nautical miles — most in the original 12-boat fleet — in less than 80 days: 79 days, 8 hours, 38 minutes, 18 seconds.
Thursday, March 2, 12:00 UTC: We’ve been waiting 11 weeks and one day to be able to say this to Kurt & John . . . See you tomorrow. After gaining 53 miles in the last 24 hours, 32º North has only 62 miles to go. They may not cross the finish line within their next 24 hours, but it shouldn’t take much longer. What looked like a Happy Hour arrival yesterday is looking more like a lunchtime landing. Remember — UTC is four hours ahead of Atlantic time, which is Antigua’s time zone. So, if the Brothers in the Boat pull in at 16:00 UTC (a very reasonable estimate at this point), that would be High Noon at Nelson’s Dockyard. #Fireuptheblender.
Wednesday, March 1, 12:00 UTC: Well, they didn’t make land before March. But the sun will not set on another Antiguan weekend before the Brothers on the Boat are back. They check in today — exactly 11 weeks from when they set forth from La Gomera — just 114 miles from the finish line. They put 44 nautical miles behind them yesterday; at that pace, they will arrive before lunch on Saturday. But when you consider that the first nine boats to finish the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge averaged 67 miles covered in their final 24 hours, Kurt & John might want to make Friday night dinner reservations in Nelson’s Dockyard.
Tuesday, Feb. 28, 12:00 UTC: The closer 32º North gets to Antigua, the closer they get. Sounds like something Yogi Berra would say, but it’s true. We’ve seen it with the previous boats to finish the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge — the closer they get to the finish line, the faster they move. The conditions closer to the island creates a sort of tractor beam that funnels the boats into English Harbour, and the Bonny Rey has found its way into the fast lane. For the second-straight day, Kurt & John put up a personal best, gaining 59 miles. They check in at 159 miles from the finish line. The official projection is a midday arrival on March 5th. But if they gain ground (so to speak) at the same rate as they have the last two days, they could pull into Nelson’s Dockyard before the weekend gets underway.
Monday, Feb. 27, 12:00 UTC: Best day yet on the Bonny Rey. 32º North had their most productive 24 hours of rowing yet, picking up 57 nautical miles. And it sure sounds like they’re feeling good about the homestretch. “Experiencing funky weather. Waves doing one thing, wind another, all of which somehow resulting in a vector due west. So awesome. If weather holds, looking at a tentative March 4 or 5 landing.” Which means this weekend.
Sunday, Feb. 26, 16:00 UTC: Looks like someone is starting to smell land. Kurt & John racked up 42 another nautical miles and are now just 265 miles from Nelson’s Dockyard. The number of days left on the Bonny Rey is likely down to single digits.
Saturday, Feb. 25, 8:00 UTC: Kurt & John gained 37 miles in the last 24 hours, marking their most productive day since February 8th. The winds appear to be at their back, and we’ve received no reports of rouge flying fish.
Friday, Feb. 24, 12:00 UTC: The mojo is back in the Bonny Rey. You can see that from their corrected bearing (264.46º), and from the renewed progress they made (30 miles in 24 hours). But you can also hear it in the improving tone of the flurry of messages we received from Kurt and John:
1. “Last week rough. Expected winds moving W/SW, but a low (pressure system) pushed through, resolving us to fight 20 mph winds moving NE. Losing 15 miles north while making 7 miles west for every three-hour shift. Brutal.”
2. “Low passed. Got a breather. But also got hit with a flying fish today. Released it back. But it was highly debated.”
3. “Beautiful still night and picking up better than anticipated miles. Must be good luck to be hit by flying fish.”
Thursday, Feb. 23, 12:00 UTC: The Bonny Rey is pointed back in the right direction. Pretty much. 32º North is moving at a bearing of 271.55º, which almost precisely due west (270º). They’ll wind up making their approach to Antigua from the northeast, which means they’re a bit more to the north than all but one of the boats that has finished so far. Also encouraging . . . they gained 15 miles over the last 24 hours — nearly four times what they were able to manage under presumably difficult conditions the day before. They are 378 miles and perhaps a dozen days from the family, friends and cold beer that await them at the finish.
Wednesday, Feb. 22, 12:00 UTC: Kurt & John’s race-long battle against oppressive conditions continues. If you look at <a href=”https://www.taliskerwhiskyatlanticchallenge.com/race-tracker/”>the official race tracker, you can see that the bearing of the Bonny Rey is actually almost 180º in the opposite direction of where they want to head. And you can see in this update that the wind — coming out of the southwest — is the probable culprit, pushing the boat in the entirely wrong direction. Accordingly, 32º North has gained only four miles toward its goal in the last 24 hours.
Tuesday, Feb. 21, 12:00 UTC: Having gained 24 more nautical miles over the past 24 hours, Kurt & John are now less than 400 miles from the finish line. How close is that? Well, if they were to hop in the Bonny Rey in the parking lot of Graceland in Memphis, they wouldn’t make it all the way to Dollywood in the Smoky Mountains. 32º North is closer to land than Dolly Parton is to Elvis. #Progress
Monday, Feb. 20, 12:00 UTC: Thirty-one miles more brings the Bonny Rey within 421 miles of Antigua. By even a conservative estimate they are likely to finish the race in less than two weeks from this latest check-in. That would put them on land before 12:00 UTC on Monday, March 5th. The current official prediction is a little later (22:04 UTC), so they have to trim 10 hours off that projected pace, which is entirely reasonable — especially when you realize that eight of the nine boats that have already finished put up 57 miles or more over their final 24 hours on the water.
Sunday, Feb. 19, 12:00 UTC: Perhaps those slow conditions lingered a little longer than was anticipated. The Bonny Rey budged 19 miles closer to the finish line since yesterday’s check-in and is now at 17º 40.61 N/53º 51.13 W — still 455 nautical miles and just about two weeks away.
Saturday, Feb. 18, 12:00 UTC: Kurt & John may have put only 23 miles behind them over the past 24 hours. But things are about to pick up for the Bonny Rey. How can we be sure? We heard it straight from the Brothers in the Boat: “Slow conditions gone. strong winds in favor of Antigua!”
Friday, Feb. 17, 12:00 UTC: Twenty-eight more miles rowed and the Bonny Rey is now less than 500 miles from the finish line. It’s not Russian-sub-off-the-Connecticut-coast close, but they’re basically New York-to-Cleveland close. At 17º 34.00 N/53º 11.01 W, they’re about one-third of a degree north of where they are headed, but they soon will be within a fortnight of “home.”
Thursday, Feb. 16 12:00 UTC: Another day, another 31 miles in the books. At this point, it appears that the Bonny Rey will make this trip from La Gomera to Nelson’s Dockyard in 2,784 miles (2,263 rowed; 521 to go). It’s amazing to think that with all the variables and opportunities to veer off course in the open ocean along the way, that’s the exact distance that Soulo Gav traveled and a few mere miles off from what Team Hopley (2,786) and American Oarsmen (2,789) made their journeys in. Only one boat — Row For James (2,672) — made the crossing in less than 2,700 miles.
Wednesday, Feb. 15, 12:00 UTC: On this date in 1493, Christopher Columbus, several months removed from sailing the ocean blue, wrote a letter describing the challenges of his first Atlantic crossing. The participants in this year’s Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge might be heartened to learn that even the icon explorer experienced equipment malfunctions. Three days into his expedition, the rudder broke on the Pinta, forcing them to stop for repairs, which sidelined them for a month. When he finally set sail for the New World — departing actually from San Sebastian de la Gomera (a point of embarkation familiar to all followers of 32º North!) — it took him five weeks before making land in the Caribbean. So, from the day he left Spain (August 3rd) to the day they landed in what today is the Bahamas (October 12th), Columbus was in transit, all told, for 70 days. That’s 10 weeks. Today marks the ninth full week on the water for Kurt & John Schwartz. And with 30 more nautical miles rendered astern, they remain 551 miles from their own Caribbean destination. It’s unlikely they will make land in a week and match Columbus’ maiden voyage. The official tracker has them slated for a March 4th arrival (a projection that’s held fairly consistent over the past week). That would have them on the water for 80 days — 10 longer than Columbus. That’s pretty good company.
Tuesday, Feb. 14, 12:00 UTC: Wishing Kurt, John and the Bonny Rey herself the happiest of Valentine’s Days. Roses are red/Violets are blue/In 581.5 nautical miles/TWAC2016 will be through.
Monday, Feb. 13, 12:00 UTC: Monday mornings are tough on everyone. Imagine what it must be like for Kurt and John, who just endured their ninth Monday morning at sea. If things continue as projected, they’re looking at only two more Monday mornings on the Atlantic. With 31 more miles behind them, they are 614 miles from land, and their predicted arrival remains fixed on the afternoon of Sunday, March 4th.
Sunday, Feb. 12, 12:00 UTC: And then there were two. The 2016 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge got underway on Dec. 15th with a 12-boat fleet. One was forced to drop out back in January. And, after Team Hopley — a one-woman boat from the UK — pulled into English Harbour early this morning, 10 boats have finished. Next up will be the Bonny Rey, probably in about 2.5 weeks. 32º North gained 29 miles over the past 24 hours, leaving them 645 miles from the finish line.
Saturday, Feb. 11, 12:00 UTC: Welcome to the 50s, 32º North! With 33 more nautical miles behind them, Kurt and John have moved west of 50th meridian west (17º 47.44 N/50º 2.0 W). That puts them just about 10 degrees east of English Harbour in Antigua. The latest projection has them arriving on March 4th in time for lunch! PBJs, anyone?
Friday, Feb. 10, 12:00 UTC: Technically, the Schwartz Brothers are not exactly three-quarters of the way through the World’s Toughest Row. They’ve gone 34 miles in the last 24 hours, which means they have 707 miles left to travel out of a projected total of 2,779 miles. Mathematically, they’ve gone 74.6% of the way. But let’s grant them the latitude of a rounding error and agree that they’re three-quarters done, which means that if they started a drive on their goal line, they’d be on the opponent’s 25-yard line today. Essentially, they’re on third base, headed for home. Before tomorrow’s update, they likely will have rowed their 2,100th mile, which is remarkable to begin with, even more so when you hear what life on the Bonny Rey has been like of late.
Thursday, Feb. 9, 12:00 UTC: Another boat’s in the barn. Atlantic Endeavor, a team of four women from the UK, arrived on Wednesday, leaving three boats remaining in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge (one solo boat was forced to drop out a couple of weeks back). 32º North’s progress slowed slightly, as they gained 32 nautical miles over the past 24 hours. They’re still looking at a projected arrival date of March 4th, though that ETA has crept up considerably — a week ago, the prediction was March 8th.
Wednesday, Feb. 8, 16:00 UTC: They’ve gone 2,000 miles . . . but these guys are no pretenders (bonus points to anyone who catches that musical reference). The Schwartz Brothers are the real deal, and after eight weeks and four hours of The World’s Toughest Row, they have traveled 2,011 nautical miles. That’s the distance from San Francisco to Birmingham. They enter their ninth week at 17º 52.57 N/48º 23.71 W, with 767 miles to go. Right now, the official race tracker estimates an arrival on or about the evening of March 4th. But with the progress the Bonny Rey’s been making (41 miles over the last 24 hours), the prospect of a February finish remains realistic. If they average 38.4 miles per day the rest of the way, they would pull into English Harbour before 0:00 UTC March 1st — the date that would mark the end of their 11th week on the water.
Tuesday, Feb. 7, 12:00 UTC: We received visual confirmation yesterday that al fresco dining remains a popular staple of the TWAC2016 experience for 32º North — peanut butter-free though it may be. Actually, friends and family probably should expect to see slightly diminished versions of Kurt and John when they arrive in Antigua. One of the members of American Oarsmen tweeted recently that he lost 20-25 pounds during his team’s crossing of the Atlantic. Undaunted, the Bonny Rey continues its course toward English Harbour, having come another 36 miles closer over the last 24 hours. And at some point during the next 24, the Schwartz Brothers will row their 2,000th mile.
Monday, Feb. 6, 12:00 UTC: We’re not sure how closely Kurt & John are following what’s going on back at home. But if they don’t know they missed the Greatest Comeback in Super Bowl history, let’s not tell them just yet. They’ll find out soon enough as they continue to gain ground on, well, ground. Forty more miles yesterday puts them at 18º 4.93 N/46º 55.89 W, only 851 miles from Antigua.
Sunday, Feb. 5, 12:00 UTC: As you wake up this Super Bowl Sunday and check the progress made by the Bonny Rey, you’ll notice that the Schwartz Brothers’ predicted finish date keeps moving up in the calendar. They gained another 36 nautical miles and are now 890 miles from land. The official tracker lists their projected arrival date as March 5th — three days earlier than it showed when the week began. Dot-watchers (those of us tracking the progress of the race) can feel an increased momentum. Maybe it’s because boats keep pouring into English Harbour (a seventh — A Adventures — is one mere mile away as of the latest official update). Regardless, 32º North is now a month away — likely less — from completing its trans-Atlantic adventure.
Saturday, Feb. 4, 12:00 UTC: Six boats have finished TWAC 2016. They all made the crossing with between 2,672 and 2,789 nautical miles rowed. With 1,850 miles down and another 926 to go, 32º North should fall right into that range. Which means that they have completed pretty much exactly two-thirds of their journey.
Friday, Feb. 3, 12:00 UTC: English Harbour is hopping. A fifth boat, Facing It, is due in any minute. Another, Fresh Dental Challenge, should be on land in time for dinner. Meanwhile, things continue to pick up for the Bonny Rey. Kurt & John added 43 nautical miles to their tally over the past 24 hours. They have reached 18º 10.24 N/45º 2.66 W and are now 958 miles from an arrival celebration of their own. If they average a very reasonable 38.3 nautical miles per day (remember — the conditions become increasingly favorable the closer they get to Antigua), they still could be looking at a February finish.
Thursday, Feb. 2, 12:00 UTC: Groundhog Day — an event that, thanks to Bill Murray and Punxsatawney Phil, has come to symbolize the repetitiveness of everyday life. A concept that Kurt and John, no doubt, can relate to after seven weeks and one day at sea. They put another 38 miles behind the Bonny Rey since our last check-in and are now 1,001.7 miles from Antigua. Nelson’s Dockyard was hopping last night, as two more boats finished TWAC 2016. Soulo Gav, a one-man boat from Ireland, arrived eight minutes before midnight, finishing third in the race and setting a world record for a solo crossing from La Gomera to Antigua (49 days, 11 hours, 37 minutes). Two hours and 27 minutes later, the three-man boat American Oarsmen made land. The next boat, Facing It, is expected sometime late Friday night into the wee hours of Saturday morning, with Fresh Dental Challenge to come about 11 hours later.
Wednesday, Feb. 1, 12:00 UTC: The month of February is underway, or, as it’s called at the TWAC finish line, Busy Season. Two more boats are expected to arrive by midday tomorrow. Three more are on target to make landfall within the next week. Meanwhile, 32º North keeps picking up its pace. Kurt & John rowed 42 miles over the past 24 hours, bringing them to 18º 23.59 N/43º 37.75 W. At some point tonight they are likely to cross their next major milestone and close within 1,000 miles of the finish line. If they can keep up that pace, a February finish remains realistic.
Tuesday, Jan. 31, 12:00 UTC: As you no doubt heard while listening to Episode 2 of the How Far Would You Go Podcast, the second half of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is considered the faster half. 32º North’s progress over the past week or so would appear to confirm that evaluation. They rowed 35 miles over the past 24 hours and are now less than 1,100 miles from landfall (1,082 to be precise). Kurt & John seem to be loving ocean life in the fast lane, as their latest text would attest: “Weather has finally picked up — 20-25kt winds with 15-20ft swells, all headed to Antigua. Yeah for the 40’s!”
Monday, Jan. 30, 12:00 UTC: While Philip Rivers was throwing the final passes in San Diego Chargers history, Chargers fans Kurt & John were adding another 31 nautical miles to their growing tally. They’ve now rowed 1,654 miles and have reached 18º 28.05 N/42º 16.64 W.
Sunday, Jan. 29, 12:00 UTC: Thirty-three more miles done, 1,147 to go. The Bonny Rey reported in today at 18º 30.15 N/41º 44.21 W.
Saturday, Jan. 28, 12:00 UTC: The Bonny Rey picked up another 30 nautical miles over the past 24 hours. It could’ve been more, had Kurt & John not taken time out for a 10-minute phone conversation. We’ll be posting that as How Far Would You Go Podcast Episode #2 at some point this afternoon.
Friday, Jan. 27, 12:00 UTC: Earlier this week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its nominees for the upcoming awards ceremony. Overnight, we received this movie review from the Bonny Rey: “John’s 3 a.m. Movie of the Night: “The Martian.” Because rowing the Atlantic is a bit like being on Mars, except without the potatoes.” We also got this selfie of the brothers on the oars.
Thursday, Jan. 26, 12:00 UTC: In the process of progressing another 24 miles over the last 24 hours, 32º North crossed the 40th meridian — not an insignificant milestone. For the first time in weeks, there’s land to their left between the Bonny Rey and Antarctica. They are now west of the easternmost tip of Brazil. Getting closer to land . . .
Wednesday, Jan. 25, 12:00 UTC: Six weeks into the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, 1,514 nautical miles rowed. That’s 252.3 miles a week, 36 miles a day, pretty much 1.5 nautical miles per hour, every hour, for six weeks. The Bonny Rey checks in today at 18º 37.81 N/39º 52.17 W, still 1,254 miles to go. The Schwartz Brothers keep pushing forward. Pushing the barriers, some might say, considering last night’s musical selection as reported from the boat: “John’s 3 a.m. Song of the Night: John Lennon’s ‘Mind Games.’ It just feels right.”
Tuesday, Jan. 24, 12:00 UTC: Through nearly six weeks of daily reports, we’ve been able to keep you updated on the various challenges — health, weather, technical, etc — that have befallen Kurt and John on their journey. Today, we add another dimension to the mix: monotony. As 32º North was making its way through another 30 nautical miles yesterday, foremost on their mind, according to their Monday-evening text, was their menu. “So what’s for dinner tonight? Chicken and rice or pasta? Almost as difficult as last night’s choice of pasta or chicken and rice.” Anyone know the limits of Corky’s BBQ’s delivery range?
Monday, Jan. 23, 12:00 UTC: Another boat has finished TWAC2016 since our last update. Row 4 James, a four-man team from England, arrived in Antigua on Sunday morning, completing the race in 39 days, four hours and 14 minutes. As for 32º North, they have 1,308.8 miles to go. Kurt sent this update late Sunday: “Interesting conditions today, though some parts have been a bit of a drag with both John and I being rained on throughout a few of our shifts, but moving closer to 40 deg!”
Sunday, Jan. 22, 16:00 UTC: Sometime between Friday’s inauguration and Saturday’s many marches, the Bonny Rey reached a significant milestone of its own. John & Kurt crossed the midpoint of their journey. Today, they check in 18º 46.32 N/38º 29.31 W, 1,434 nautical miles behind them, 1,332 left to travel. The going hasn’t been easy, but the Schwartz Brothers remain their easy-going nature. The latest Fleet Update on the official race site says that “32 NORTH remain the calmest, most laid back crew when they answer the DO calls! They are doing well and embracing the experience.”
Friday, Jan. 20, 0:00 UTC: The first boat in the fleet has arrived in Antigua. At 1:03 UTC, Latitude 35, an American four-man boat, finished the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in 35 days, 14 hours and three minutes, setting a new world record in the process. Meanwhile, 32º North put 36 nautical miles in their wake, bringing them to 18º 47.86 N/36º 51.05 W.
Tuesday, Jan. 17, 8:00 UTC: A tweet from the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge yesterday announced that race officials were on their way to English Harbour to prepare for the imminent arrival of the first boat in the fleet. That would be Latitude 35, the American four-man boat, which could finish the race as early as Thursday. As for 32º North, they picked up another 24 miles over the past 24 hours and check in today at 19º 3.06 N/35º 15.37 W.
Monday, Jan. 16, 8:00 UTC: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” No one need ask that question of Kurt and John; who are spending this Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday and National Day of Service doing what they’ve been doing for more than a month: rowing across the Atlantic Ocean to support The Samfund. In the last 24 hours, they’ve rowed 27 nautical miles, bringing them ever closer to the midway point of their journey. How far are you willing to go today?
Sunday, Jan. 15, 12:00 UTC: One month ago, we posted the first of our daily updates from 32º North. Today, Kurt & John check in at exactly 1,200 miles rowed. Basically, from Texarkana, TX to Atlanta, GA (the route run by Burt Reynolds in the classic “Smokey and the Bandit” movie), except back to Texarkana again, and then back to Atlanta. And without Sheriff Buford T. Justice in pursuit. Or, more simply, the distance from Philadelphia to Miami.
Saturday, Jan. 14, 12:00 UTC: One month. That is precisely how long Kurt and John Schwartz have been aboard the Bonny Rey and out at sea. They rowed through the starting gate at 12:05 UTC on December 14th. One month into the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, they have traveled 1,162 hard miles, including 48 over the last 24 hours. They’ve had three straight days of rowing 40+ nautical miles, but life on the boat poses new challenges every day, as this latest straight-from-the-horse-whale’s mouth update describes: “Two days ago, we had a rough night, but made it through all right. Unfortunately, we got walloped by a wave causing our boat to dip heavily starboard, splintering one of our oar heads in half. No rolling though! By the way, each oar been named after a cartoon villain from our childhood. It wasn’t Splinter. R.I.P. Rocksteady. Yesterday, we had nice winds to the West! It feels like it has been weeks since we’ve managed to row in these conditions. Now it’s time to make up for lost degrees and get to the halfway point. Today, weather is constant. Rowers rowing. I also washed clothes …that was as exciting as it got. Baby powder is also a godsend for my bum.”
Friday, Jan. 13, 12:00 UTC: Perhaps it was Kurt’s juju-cleansing admission the other day or the simple fact that the winds have changed, but the Bonny Rey is moving along nicely. Today, the Schwartz Brothers check in at 19º 8.1 N/32º 57.85 W, 42 miles closer to their destination.
Thursday, Jan. 12, 12:00 UTC: (Editor’s Note: The daily tracker was unavoidably sidelined the past three days; we apologize, and now return you to the story of the journey of 32º North, already in progress) First, let’s start with where they are. The Bonny Rey checks in at 19º 14.39 N/32º 13.55 W. They have rowed 43 nautical miles in the past 24 hours and have gone 1,072 miles since the start of the race back on Dec. 14th. They have 1,688 miles to go. Now . . . how did they get to this point? For a few days, it looked as if Kurt & John weren’t progressing at all. And while they were facing brutal wind conditions, they were in fact moving forward. But their GPS was down, rendering them untrackable for a short while. The lack of GPS also meant they had to navigate the old-fashioned way — with a compass and the stars, stopping every so often to ask directions from local sea creatures. Late Sunday evening, they filed this update: “Moving at a slightly north west bearing now. Apparently row boats perform terribly when a beam to waves (perpendicular). Which is what we were doing the past few days. Waves moved south and we were headed west, haha. Well, lesson learned the hard way! But good to see a little movement now. A few more days of this weather and then hopefully we can get something going west!” By Tuesday afternoon, the GPS had been restored and the wind had shifted. It was still strong but blowing in the right direction. “In for a long night. N bound winds and waves whipping up around us with a good amount of rain. Continuing WEST so should be a bit of fun!”
We even received this visual confirmation of the Brothers in the Boat, courtesy of Jamie Sparks on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge support boat.
Sunday, Jan. 8, 12:00 UTC: The battle against brutal conditions continues. Forward progress has been minimal, forcing the Schwartz Brothers to look behind them rather than what’s in front of them. Consider this update from Kurt: “When I was 7, I stole a pack of Butterfinger BB’s from the local Thrifty’s to look cool in front of the pretty girl in class. Only karma can explain a 3-4-day eastern wind when we are trying to make our way west. Rowing not to go backwards! Shed the bad juju!”
Saturday, Jan. 7, 12:00 UTC: Wind conditions over the last few days have become punishing. Find out what specific challenges the Schwartz Brothers have endured in this remarkably upbeat first-hand report from the Bonny Rey, filed overnight before they reached 19º 25.30 North/30º 16.66 West.
Friday, Jan. 6, 12:00 UTC: We received this update from Kurt overnight: “First 16-hour shift is complete. Now have blisters on my other blisters! But was actually fun to interact with John for 8 hours of the day. Mostly been rowing singles so nice to have us both up at the same time!” We are seeking clarification on this change of strategy, but it sounds like they’ve moved away from the two hours on/two hours off approach and now each brother is rowing 16 hours at a clip then taking eight hours off to rest. Presumably, that’s one eight-hour solo shift apiece and one eight-hour shift rowing together. We’re looking forward to some more details and to monitoring their continued progress. Since yesterday’s post, the Schwartz Brothers have passed the 90-mile mark, which means they are more than one-third of the way through their journey. The official tracker has them at 922 nautical miles rowed, 1,806 to go.
Thursday, Jan. 5, 12:00 UTC: Remember the Blood Rain we told you about a week or so ago? There’s a fascinating report from the Atlantic Challenges duty officer that details exactly how the Calima winds — which dumped dust and sand from the Sahara Desert on most of the 12-boat fleet — have affected everyone’s journey. The impact has been particularly pronounced when it comes to the effectiveness of the boats’ solar panels, which is how they generate power for everything from steering to communications to making potable water from sea water. Blood Rain delays notwithstanding, according to the official Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge Race Tracker, the lead boat, Latitude 35, is just two weeks away from making landfall. The four-man American crew is slated for a mid-afternoon arrival on January 19th. According to the same tracker, the Bonny Rey currently is on target for March 1st.
Wednesday, Jan. 4, 12:00 UTC: The Bonny Rey continues to fine-tune its course, moving now at 246.85º. Many of the boats ahead of them are pointed almost directly west (270º), and over the past couple of days the Schwartz Brothers appear to have similarly adjusted their bearing. If you want to follow the course they’ve traveled to this point in the race (21 days, 6+ hours), visit the Race Tracker page on the official race site and click on the Bonny Ray (the cream-colored boat icon in 10th place). Then go to the scrollbar at the bottom of the map. Click and drag the circle all the way back to the beginning, hit the “play” button and watch the boats make their ways along their respective courses, from the start of the race to today. It’s a cool feature, and you can see how the slightest adjustment to a boat’s bearing would impact their progress toward Antigua.
Tuesday, Jan. 3, 12:00 UTC: The holidays are officially over. Kids head back to school today, most people get back to work. Re-entry into the ol’ routine can be rough. Not for 32º North, which never took any time off for the holidays. The Schwartz Brothers put another 33 miles in their wake over the past 24 hours, and conditions over the next few days look like they might make for continued productive rowing. See for yourself what the winds are like where the Bonny Rey is (20º 12.11 North/28º 30.87 West). Visit WINDYTV, the site recommended in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge’s most recent post.
Monday, Jan. 2, 12:00 UTC: At some point on New Year’s Day, the Bonny Rey had a close encounter with the second-largest mammal on the planet: a fin whale. No wonder they put 39 nautical miles behind them over the past 24 hours.
Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, 16:00 UTC: Happy New Year! In our first check-in of 2017, Kurt and John Schwartz are at 20º 39.13 North/27º 21.36 West, having traveled 762 nautical miles since first putting oars to water at 12:05 UTC on Dec. 14th. They have 1,963 miles to go, which puts them on target to arrive at Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua on March 2nd, in time for lunch.
Saturday, Dec. 31, 12:00:30 UTC: It’s all about the countdown now. People around the world will spend their day with their sights set on midnight, so that they may count down the final moments of 2016. The only challenge for Kurt & John Schwartz is figuring out exactly when midnight is. Based on their location (20º 56.08 North/26º 40.87 West), they are UTC minus-2, meaning they are two time zones west of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) or Greenwich Mean Time. That puts their boat in the same boat as a big chunk of Greenland and the South Sandwich Islands, scheduled to celebrate New Year’s midnight two hours after the Canary Islands, where their row began, and two hours before the ball drops in Antigua, the Caribbean island in the Atlantic time zone where their row will end, a couple of months into the new year. We wish the Brothers in the Boat a safe and happy new year, and assure them that among their acquaintances auld and new, they will not be forgot. Happy New Year, everyone!
Friday, Dec. 30, 12:00 UTC: No report direct from the Bonny Rey today. But the duty officer from the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge did check in on the official race website. He wrote of the race going on at the front of the 12-boat pack between two teams (Latitude 35 and Row 4 James) challenging the 11-year-old record for four-man boats. He also alluded to something called “Blood Rain,” a phenomenon once mentioned in the Iliad but doesn’t in this case seem to be a warning from Zeus. Kurt and John remain solidly in 10th place, 2,034.7 nautical miles from the finish line. There’s every chance they will be within 2,000 miles before 2016 draws to a close tomorrow night.
Thursday, Dec. 29, 12:00 UTC: We received a quick check-in overnight from Kurt and John: “Passed through 22N/25W today. Onto another midnight row!” Sounds like they have settled into a routine on this maritime marathon. Since we started our daily tracker two weeks ago, the Brothers in the Boat have traveled 446.6 nautical miles. That’s 223.3 miles per week, 31.9 miles per day, about 1.3 nautical miles per hour. Put another way . . . it’s been a grind. To better appreciate what the Schwartz Brothers are putting themselves through, check out the documentary produced by Nat Geo on the 2015 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, which made its digital debut over Christmas on the race’s official site.
Wednesday, Dec. 28, 12:00 UTC: Round-the-clock life at sea isn’t just about rowing and resting, as Kurt reminds us in this update from the Bonny Rey, now less than 2,100 miles from Antigua: “Productive cleaning day today. John went overboard to clean the sides of the boat which left the aft cabin for me. Making our way a little south to avoid the low pressure system above us and hopefully snag decent winds.” Want more from the brothers in the boat? Check out their latest blog, in which they express a few packing regrets.
Tuesday, Dec. 27, 12:00 UTC: Another day, another challenge for 32º North, which checked in at 22º 24.29 North/24º 32.16 West with this report: “Hey. Snow globe feel again today. Felt first casualty as we lost an oar to the Atlantic. We have a few spares so not a huge deal. Weather should pick up and push us west in the next few days!” Lost an oar? Wonder if AAA offers swell-side assistance.
Monday, Dec. 26, 16:00 UTC: We received our first first-person weather report from the mid-Atlantic. Last night, as 32º North was putting its 500th nautical mile behind the Bonny Rey, Kurt and John reported, “Weather picked up and so did our time. By nightfall fog set in. Feels like rowing in a snow globe. Merry Christmas everyone!” Rowing in a snow globe, huh? Sounds like a new carol someone needs to write before Holiday Season 2017.
Sunday, Dec. 25, 16:00 UTC: In December of 1888, a few years after he’d written and released “Treasure Island” and “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Robert Louis Stevenson published a poem in the Christmas edition of the Scots Observer magazine. In the poem “Christmas At Sea,” (later set to music and recorded by Sting), Stevenson depicted the efforts of a crew trying to get its sailboat into Sydney Harbor during a winter storm.
Kurt and John Schwartz are not yet ready to bring the Bonny Rey into harbor (certainly not Sydney Harbor, or they’ve gone horribly off course). But on this Christmas morning, it’s difficult to read this poem and not think of the brothers from 32º North and the hearty souls behind the oars in the 11 other boats competing in this year’s Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.
The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it’s just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessed Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard’s was the house where I was born.
O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
My mother’s silver spectacles, my father’s silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china plates that stand upon the shelves.
And well I knew the talk they had, the talk was that of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea.
Over the last 24 hours, 32º North closed within 2,200 miles of their finish line. They are 2,196 from home (well, Antigua), still two months or so away.
We wish the Schwartz Brothers and all sons and daughters at sea this morning the safest of holiday seasons.
Saturday, Dec. 24, 12:00 UTC: It is Christmas Eve, which means, among other things, many of you with young children will be tracking Santa on the NORAD website devoted to mapping the progress of his sleigh across the globe. May we suggest that you also take a moment to track not Rudolph and the other eight reindeer but the 12 boats who make up the field for the 2016 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Currently, 32º North find themselves at 23º 23.82 North/22º 35.79 West, while Santa is somewhere over Tasmania. That jolly old elf will arrive in the Caribbean in about 14 hours, while Kurt and John will need another couple of months until they can get there.
Friday, Dec. 23, 12:00 UTC: As many of you are aware, one of the great traditions of Festivus involves the Feats of Strength. Undeniably, the most impressive of those feats this year has been the progress made by 32º North. Over the last two days, Kurt and John have rowed more than 100 nautical miles. At some point over the past few hours, they crossed the Tropic of Cancer, one of the five latitudinal landmarks that circle the globe (the Tropic of Capricorn, the Equator, and the Arctic and Antarctic Circles being the others). They are 2,264.4 miles from “home” and are on pace for a mid-February landfall. To borrow a line from Frank Costanza, “This is the best Festivus ever.”
Thursday, Dec. 22, 12:00 UTC: The past 24 hours were 32º North’s best yet . . . and not just because they got to participate in the How Far Would You Go Podcast pilot episode. Kurt & John put 55.2 nautical miles behind them, far and away their biggest day of the eight they’ve been on the water. The revised projection on the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge leaderboard now targets a midday arrival in Antigua on February 2nd. Right now, the tracker predicts the Bonny Rey will be the fifth of the 12 boats to make land.
Wednesday, Dec. 21, 12:00 UTC: Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. Today, along the Tropic of Capricorn (23.5º latitude south of the equator), the sun will sit directly overhead at noon. Today, just about one degree above of the Tropic of Cancer (23.5º latitude north of the equator), the Schwartz brothers celebrate not only the first day of winter but the completion of their first full week aboard the Bonny Rey. They advanced 35 nautical miles over the past 24 hours — their most productive day yet — and are now 2,364.2 miles from shore. Today, Winter Solstice Day, traditionally was the day when the ancient Greeks celebrated the Festival of Poseidon. Perhaps, then, today we should do as written by Homer in the Odyssey, “. . . pour libations to Poseidon and the other immortals,” and ask the Greek god of the sea to keep an eye on the boys in the Bonny Rey.
Tuesday, Dec. 20, 12:00 UTC: Today’s update comes with a lesson in navigational terminology, necessitated by the latest post on the official website of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. The post made reference to a red line on its Race Tracker map, which represents the Rhumb Line.
For those land-lubbin’ laypeople among us (present company absolutely included), the Rhumb Line is not some Caribbean-infused dance formation undertaken by tourists after a night spent sampling Wray & Nephew. It is, according to a quick morning survey of a few accomplished sailing friends, quite simply the classic shortest distance between two points.
If you look at TWAC’s Race Tracker from this morning, you’ll notice that all 12 points in this year’s race deviated from the Rhumb Line pretty much immediately, which makes sense. Traveling the Rhumb Line — as the crow flies, if you will — would have taken them smack into El Hierro, the last of the Canary Islands before heading out to sea. Instead, all boats departed La Gomera and headed much further south, and are now 2-3º below the original Rhumb Line.
Sailors (I am told) will forego the Rhumb Line to pursue better breezes or more favorable currents (thanks, Captain Tricia!), sorta like the way Waze will take you slightly out of your way to avoid traffic along your original route. Once around those trouble spots, the rowers will set a new Rhumb Line — the straightest line between where they are and where they are going. It seems most boats are doing just that, 32º North included.
Kurt & John left another 27 nautical miles in their wake over the past 24 hours, having traveled 241 total miles so far. They have approximately 10 times that distance left to travel (2,989.8 miles). A sobering notion indeed.
Monday, Dec. 19, 12:00 UTC: The last 24 hours have been the boys’ most productive yet: 33 nautical miles rowed. They check in this morning at 25º 26.09 North/19º 8.53 West, about 240 miles off the coast of Africa (Western Sahara, to be specific). They appear to be traveling in an area where the winds range from 10.2 to 12.9 knots (roughly 11.7-14.8 miles per hour).
Sunday, Dec. 18, 12:01 UTC: Another day, another 29 nautical miles behind them, leaving Kurt & John a mere 2,459.4 miles from dry land. On Saturday, they managed to get a call through to their family and girlfriends. There wasn’t much to report: just a little seasickness to overcome. And swells large enough to get the Bonny Rey up to 7 knots — about 8 mph, or four times as fast as they typically travel. It’s an anomaly, to be sure, but think about it . . . if they could maintain that impossible pace around the clock, they’d need only another 14.5 days to finish the race. Keep it up, boys, and we’ll see you New Year’s Day!
Saturday, Dec. 17, 12:00 UTC: The pack of boats is starting to stretch out. Row For James, a British four-man boat, leads the 12-boat field, approximately 160 nautical miles ahead of Rossiters, a solo boat manned by a second-generation ocean rower from the Ukraine. 32º North is setting in nicely, having put 26 miles behind them over the past 24 hours. Kurt & John Schwartz currently are at 26º 20.94 North/18º 3.32 West. Pretty much three full days into their adventure, they remain 2,448.4 nautical miles from their destination. They’re traveling at a speed of 2 knots, which is roughly 2.3 miles per hour. If they maintain that pace, they’re looking at another 44+ days at sea, which would land them in Antigua at some point on the last day of January. The good news? At least they don’t have to worry much about laundry.
Friday, Dec. 16, 14:00 UTC: The Schwartz Brothers and the Bonny Rey were at latitude 28º 58.53 North/longitude 17º 39.14 West, traveling at 1.8 knots. That’s approximately 2 miles per hour, a slightly slower pace than the typical New Yorker walks one city block. If they were to maintain that speed, it would take about 52.3 days to travel the remaining 2,512.6 miles. Considering they were expecting to be at sea for anywhere from 45 to 70 days, they seem to be making progress pretty much as they planned.
We’ll provide daily updates on Kurt and John’s watery whereabouts. If you require a greater frequency, you can follow them virtually up to the minute on the official Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge Race Tracker, provided by YB Tracking. 32º North is depicted by the white boat, and you can easily track their trail through the spaghetti of paths mapped out like a bunch of Weather Channel storm forecast models. In this image, taken Friday morning, they are in 10th place among the 12 boats competing in TWAC2016, but first among the two boats in their division (the Concept Pairs).