Colin Sanders, Managing Director at Outdoor Sports & Company, sets off today on a 2,500-mile solo rowing journey across the Atlantic.
Writer: Carly Terwilliger
Sixty-four year old Colin Sanders was looking for a physical challenge, and mountain climbing was out because of the altitude. So the Managing Director at Outdoor Sports & Company – parent company of Bridgedale Socks, Mountain Equipment and Hilly Socks – asked around and landed on ocean rowing.
So over a year ago, Sanders picked up a boat from British rower John Beeden, who rowed from San Francisco to Cairns, Australia in 209 days, and started planning for a 2,500-mile solo rowing journey across the Atlantic.
Today, Sanders sets out from the Canary Islands to Antigua. A marine radio course, first aid certification electronic navigation course and a yacht master theory course are just some of the preparations Sanders undertook before setting off, not to mention countless hours of physical training.
Although the physical feat would be quite impressive on its own, there is also a personal element to “A Million Possibilities,” the name Sanders has given to his journey (he figures it will take about one million strokes to complete). His son Jeff has a physical and intellectual disability and has benefitted from Community Living in Ontario, so Sanders teamed up with the organization for his rowing challenge.
Sanders will row for about 12 hours each day, starting early and rowing into the evening with a two-hour rest around 11 a.m. Leven Brown, an experienced Scottish ocean rower, will coach and mentor him throughout his journey. Brown will watch the weather, communicate with Sanders via satellite phone and help the adventurer through any issues that may arise. With 90 days worth of food in watertight compartments, a desalinator and two of everything in case of equipment failure, Sanders is banking on a 90-day trip – the record is 46 days according to the Ocean Rowing Society.
We spoke with Sanders to find out more about his epic solo quest.
What was your “I’m really doing this!” moment for A Million Possibilities? It was about two years ago when I was out mountain biking and I said to my friend, “I need an epic adventure before I’m too old or on the wrong side of the grass. The thought of rowing across the Atlantic alone seemed to fit my physical capabilities and sense of adventure.
Describe your training regimen. What part was the most enjoyable and what gave you the most trouble? I’ve been pretty fit and active all of my life, but this 75- to 90-day crossing will test me like never before. I’ve worked with a nutritionist, a physical trainer and ocean rowing coach to get ready. I’ve spent almost two years working on a lot of core strengthening and Concept2 work. It’s a long time to spend on your butt hunched over in the same position.
How do you keep yourself entertained during long solo rowing journeys? I have lots of e-books. Origin. Lots by Churchill, being a history buff. James Cook, which is appropriate. Music, movies and books on navigation.
Any advice for rowers looking to follow your example? It’s all in the details … as one rower told me, the hard part is getting to the start line; the row is the easy part.
What must-have gear are you packing? Nite Ize has a lot of great accessories like tie downs, lights and S biners which will come in handy. A gimbaled Jet Boil, a custom-made Mountain Equipment synthetic sleeping bag because it will be hot and damp, and my new toy – a BGAN satellite terminal that will allow me to easily send video clips and images.
You can support Sanders’ journey and the Community Living Ontario organization by visiting communitylivingontario.ca/en/oceanrow. All donations will receive an automatic tax receipt.
Photos courtesy Colin Sanders and A Million Possibilities