An ex-naval combat officer from Cape Town is currently training vigorously for a 7,000km voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, in a bid to raise awareness for renewable energy.  Zirk Botha will leave Cape Town in December, and row in his boat, 'Ratel', for an estimated 100 days until he reaches the shores of Rio de Janeiro. The only assistance he will be receiving will be from the sun, in the form of solar panels and batteries he will use to power all of his equipment for the crossing. This includes his desalinator, auto-pilot, safety equipment, radio and satellite communications equipment.  When...
An ex-naval combat officer from Cape Town is currently training vigorously for a 7,000km voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, in a bid to raise awareness for renewable energy. 

Zirk Botha will leave Cape Town in December, and row in his boat, 'Ratel', for an estimated 100 days until he reaches the shores of Rio de Janeiro.

The only assistance he will be receiving will be from the sun, in the form of solar panels and batteries he will use to power all of his equipment for the crossing. This includes his desalinator, auto-pilot, safety equipment, radio and satellite communications equipment. 

When Botha is not embarking on adventure races, he works as an economic development manager at juwi Renewable Energies. 

This is not Botha's first Atlantic rodeo – while in the South African Navy, he completed three Atlantic crossings. 

But his previous crossings were under power, with the company of a full crew, including a chef, engineers and technicians, Botha told The Citizen. 

Ex-naval officer to row 7,000km from Cape to Rio to raise awareness for renewable energy


Greg Austin, MD of juwi Renewable Energies (left) inspects the boat with Zirk Botha (right), who is tackling the 7,000km rowing challenge.

"This time I will be responsible for my safety 24 hours a day, as well as doing all maintenance myself and last but not least, make my own food. 

"Practically, this means that when I finish rowing, I have to tend to all the other things before I can rest." 

Botha's mission is to show that renewable energy is a viable alternative to fossil fuels and nuclear energy, by showcasing that he could rely only on solar energy without needing a "baseload", which is currently the main argument why renewable energy alone cannot work, he explained. 

The risk of relying only on solar power for his journey is a risk worth taking, he added. 

"Sustainable development is not a nice to have, it's a critical change needed to reverse the damage we have done to the planet, with renewable energy [being] one element of sustainable development." 

Botha said that switching 100% to renewable energy within the next decade "should be a given".

"The platform that the ocean crossing creates will allow me to drive home the message that the increased uptake of renewable energy is a key solution to the climate change challenges faced by our planet." 

Botha is no stranger to the challenges he will face on his 7,000km adventure. He expects large waves and swells. 

He will row for 14 hours a day, and estimates to consume 10 litres of water and 8,000 calories of food every day. Despite consuming more than three times the amount of calories a normal person consumes in a day, he expects to lose over 12kg.  

Ex-naval officer to row 7,000km from Cape to Rio to raise awareness for renewable energy


Zirk Botha, who is no stranger to adventure, may be facing his biggest challenge yet, all in the name of emphasising the importance of renewable energy.

A typical day aboard the Ratel will start at 6am while Botha eats breakfast, before starting his first rowing shift of 90 minutes. At 8am, weather depending, he will make time for a cup of coffee and a dried fruit snack. Each rowing shift will be about two hours, including a 30-minute break at the end of each shift. 

8am is laundry time, after which Botha will dress in sun-protective clothing, and have a second breakfast at around 10am. 

Midday is snack, journey update and desalinator time. Botha said he aims to eat a variety of food, but joked that "by the end of the crossing there will be some food types that will disappear from my list forever".

Other than the water from Botha's desalinator, he only has 55 litres of emergency water supply. 

Midday will be when Botha sends his position to a tracker to post his daily update. 

At 2pm, Botha will rate himself to a big lunch of freeze-dried, dehydrated food. He can warm this up on his camping stove on gimbals to compensate for the rolling of the boat, but if the weather gets too rough, his lunch will be cold. 

Botha said his radio would constantly be monitoring any ships in the area passing too close to the Ratel. 

He said he was only able to have "a good freshwater splashdown" if he builds up an extra reservoir of water. He has to consume at least eight litres of water every day. 

Dinner and family time is at 8pm. During this time he is able to contact his children and family, either through calls or text messages, before tucking in for the night at about 9pm. 

Before going to sleep, Botha must apply antibiotic ointment to any blisters, and wipe down with fresh water, to delay salt sores. 

His schedule will be determined by the weather, but Botha does have contingency plans, should mother nature decide to throw some curveballs along the way. 

Botha built his boat almost single-handedly and is currently training hard. 

"But I know that my biggest challenge will not be physical, but rather mental." 

People will be able to follow Botha's journey by clicking on the link to the Trackamap site, and by following his Facebook page. 

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