Nica Richards
Premium Journalist
3 minute read
11 Feb 2021
11:41 am

Ex-naval officer almost in Rio after rowing solo for 5300km

Nica Richards

Zirk Botha, 59, set off on his 7200km transatlantic feat in December last year aboard his boat, 'Ratel’, to raise awareness for renewable energy.

Botha is reliant only on solar panels and solar-charged batteries for his water desalination machine, and all his safety and communication equipment. Picture: Supplied

Zirk Botha, 59, set off on his 7200km transatlantic feat in December last year aboard his boat, Ratel

He is the first person to attempt the journey alone and unsupported, and despite weather and wear-and-tear challenges, Botha continues to set records that will be hard to beat. 

An upbeat Zirk Botha. Picture: Supplied

“I am making good progress and getting closer to the Brazilian coast. I’ve completed 3000 nautical miles (nm) in less than eight weeks, this equates to a daily average of 58nm, with an average speed of 2.48 knots. The weather forecast is in line with my weather routing prediction, the plan is working.

“I still have another 1000 nautical miles, or 1850km to go, so I won’t be slowing the pace,” Botha reported.

ALSO READ: Ex-naval officer to row 7000km from Cape to Rio to raise awareness for renewable energy

When Botha spoke to The Citizen just before he embarked on his voyage, he estimated he would consume 10 litres of water and 8000 calories of food every day. Despite consuming more than three times the amount of calories a normal person consumes in a day, he still expected to lose over 12kg.  

Aside from a strained knee, Botha is fast approaching the Brazilian coastline. His next challenge is navigating around the Trinidad Island, fishing areas and oil fields.

Zirk Botha, three quarters of the way, on his solo row from Cape Town to Rio. Image courtesy of Trackamap.

Botha reported seeing incredible wildlife scenes while rowing.

“Early on my voyage I spotted a large sunfish. Near halfway, I saw the two dolphin pods and two marlin – I spotted a small marlin, about 1.5m, but it was very skittish and swam off very quickly. The big marlin I saw was stunning. It passed very close to the boat, but didn’t stick around. 

“My highlight was the one pod of dolphins that played around Ratel for about 10 minutes.”

Zirk Botha says goodbye to his children before departing for Rio. Pictured L-R Bert Botha, Mieke Botha, Zirk Botha, Ruby Botha and Elle Botha. Picture: Supplied

So, why is a maritime and adventure fundi attempting a notoriously dangerous route alone? 

Botha has taken on this journey to raise awareness for renewable energy as a solution to environmental issues plaguing our planet. 

“I want to use #Row2Rio2020 to spotlight the impact of fossil fuels and irresponsible consumerism on the planet, which will be the home of our children and future generations. Renewable energies are essential to a sustainable future.”

Botha departing for Rio from Cape Town in December 2020. Picture: www.skypixels.co.za

Botha has been a model sustainable citizen, even at sea. 

His entire journey has been 100% self-sustaining. He is reliant only on solar panels and solar-charged batteries for his water desalination machine, and all his safety and communication equipment. 

“This provides a perfect showcase to support the message that 100% renewable energy is the solution.”

According to juwi Renewable Energies CEO Richard Doyle, just 28% of the globe uses renewable energy. Although a 2% improvement from the year before, Doyle said achieving 100% renewable energy is a goal that is in sight within the business sector. 

“juwi’s vision is 100% renewable energy and it is increasingly clear that many businesses can get there with energy management and storage. 

“Zirk is a mini example of this, with the sun providing all of the navigation, communications and other electronic functions for his trip,” Doyle said.

Click here if you would like to track Botha’s progress in real time. You can also catch up on his adventures on Facebook and Instagram.

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