Extreme adventurer, motivational speaker and conservationist, Braam Malherbe, together with his partner Wayne Robertson, achieved an epic world first by rowing approximately 8,100kms from Cape Town to the Rio de Janeiro yacht club.
They rowed in a small vessel Mhondoro and they arrived to their destination on the 9 May 2017 after spending 92 days at sea.
Their mission is to raise awareness of the state of our planet by successfully completing a daunting distance across the ocean in a row boat but more importantly, launching the DOT (Do One Thing) Challenge in order that people all around the world can contribute to their passionate plea.
This world-first expedition will be the recognized as being the most southern rowing expedition ever undertaken from South Africa. They covered approximately 8100km in 92 days and more than 2 million strokes.
Besides the obvious physical and mental challenges of every long expedition, their mission includes an extremely perilous crossing in unpredictable and variable weather conditions of the Southern Atlantic ocean (commonly called the Cape of Storms, an ominous name not for nothing), having to avoid countless collisions with ships or underwater vessels which happen to cross the Atlantic on a similar route and of course the possibility of encountering whales. This has entailed being on constant and vigilant alert, each of them rowing continuously in two- hour shifts to ensure a safe crossing.
More extraordinary however is that this challenge is entirely unassisted and unsupported. There is not a single rescue boat following them or in contact with them at all and in an emergency, the closest ship would be their only source of help- which could be days away.
And though Malherbe is no stranger to world-first expeditions- having been the first person together with his running partner to run the Great Wall of China in a single attempt (4200km, 2,610 miles), and then two years later, another world first by running the entire South African coastline, from Namibia to Mozambique (3278km, 1,988 miles) – this is his first challenge in the ocean. On these prior expeditions, having a support team on route meant that all his energy could be focused on running and each night he could rest and recharge, with his team ensuring that he was re-energised and properly fed. Through these achievements, in excess of R2.5 million was raised for Operation Smile, and over 700 children have received operations as a result of their efforts.
In contrast, on this unsupported challenge in an unpredictable ocean, every single other aspect has necessitated that either Braam or Wayne deal with it themselves. And so when they lost their one rowing seat in a particularly harsh storm just weeks into their row where they were upside down and underwater for at least five minutes, no-one came to their rescue. Their high- tech satellite phone system which allowed them to send live footage of their journey and their dagger board was also damaged but they managed, in their typical MacGyver- like style to repair some of equipment on the boat.
Communication on this mission has thus been via satellite phone and not much more. There have been days where they have been without any contact at all.
Fascinating too is that Braam’s partner Wayne Robertson – though an experienced yachtsman and master skipper having crossed the ocean many times – only joined the mission as a rower a week before they departed – and had spent a total of two hours in the Mhondoro as a novice rower.
In contrast to the achievements of many others who have successfully conquered the North Atlantic Ocean crossing, it is understood that a South Atlantic crossing is a more treacherous route, particularly in terms of its weather patterns and harsh currents.
According to an expert climatologist and environmental scientist, the southern Hemisphere is dominated by high pressure cells (the ‘South Atlantic high’) which are large masses of dry air descending southwards from equatorial regions where they rain out their moisture. Here the air moves in an anticlockwise direction around the center of the high pressure cell and thus Braam and Wayne have had to deliberately maneuver themselves towards the northern part of the cell so that the dominant wind, ‘the Easterlies’, would assist their movement to Rio. Should they have found themselves too far north, they could hit the calamity zone (or doldrums), and too far south they have would experience (as in the last few days) some incubating low pressure cells which cause some westerly winds and thus hinder their progress.
Another factor which has caused complications is the unseasonable cloudiness which has compromised their solar water purification and charging apparatus. On some days they have spent hours manually pumping drinking water as their solar apparatus could not function efficiently without the necessary sun. Fortunately these days were few and short-lived but it meant that on some days with less wind and having to secure sufficient drinking water, progress was slow.
In short, a mission extraordinaire is the one currently being undertaken by Braam and Wayne. There are few who would willingly undertake to risk life and limb, and not only for their own accolades but for the purposes of raising awareness of earth issues which are continuously and increasingly reaching tipping point.
Malherbe founded the DOT Foundation to support projects that provide education and assistance in one of the four categories – water, waste, energy and conservation, and started the DOT Challenge campaign to highlight the importance of doing one thing for the planet on a daily basis.