Skip to main content

Rower takes on her second ocean

Roz Savage conquered the Atlantic in 2005 and now has her sights set on the Pacific

Roz Savage conquered the Atlantic in 2005 and now has her sights set on the Pacific

From leading a 100-day solo expedition through Peru to climbing the world’s tallest free-standing mountain, Roz Savage loves a challenge. This summer, she plans to further push the envelope by becoming the first woman to row single-handed across the Pacific.

The 39-year-old British adventurer, who in 2005 became the first woman to compete solo in England’s Atlantic Rowing Race, plans to set off from San Francisco in July. “I had decided before I did the Atlantic that I wanted to do the Pacific,” Savage says in an e-mail to Soundings, a day after returning from northeastern Tanzania, Africa, where she had climbed the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. “No matter how tough it was on the Atlantic, it was never bad enough to make me change my mind.”

Savage says she hopes her row across the Pacific will help draw attention to “unacceptable” amounts of plastic waste products in the world’s oceans. She plans to make the passage in three stages. From San Francisco she will row her 23-foot boat, Sedna Solo, 2,600 miles to Hawaii, shooting for landfall by September. She plans to set off again in March 2008 and row 2,000 miles to American Samoa in the South Pacific, making landfall in May. Savage plans to start the third stage to Australia in 2009.

“The hardest part will be getting away from the California coastline,” says Savage, who used to row for England’s OxfordUniversity. “I’m talking with the U.S. Coast Guard about how to get a clean departure.”

During the 2005 Atlantic Rowing Race, from the Canary Islands to Antigua, 60 competitors were broken into 26 teams in solo, pairs and fours classes. Rowing day and night in heavy winds and seas kicked up by three low pressure systems, two tropical storms and the tail end of a hurricane, six teams were forced to retire. Savage, who was the first solo female competitor, finished last after 103 days, 5 hours, 45 minutes.

“It really doesn’t bother me that I came in last,” Savage says. “For the Pacific it will be a nice change not to be in a race, as it means I can make up my own rules. I did the Atlantic unsupported, as it was against the race rules to accept support from another vessel. On the Pacific, I would love it if cruising yachts drop by, especially if they bring me a glass of cold wine or an ice cream.”

In 2005 French rower/sailor Maud Fontenoy rowed solo and non-stop across the Pacific from Lima, Peru, to the French Polynesian islands. Because of the route she rowed, Savage says Fontenoy “only rowed two-thirds of the Pacific.” Savage says she will be the first woman “to do the whole Pacific.”

This winter amateur Dutch adventurer Ralph Tuijn, 35, set off to make what he says will be the first solo row across the Pacific at the ocean’s widest point. He kicked off March 14 from Callao, Peru, aboard his 23.5-foot rowing boat, Zeeman Challenger, and will row nearly 10,000 miles over eight months to Brisbane, Australia ( ).

Savage says she is excited to find out what challenges the Pacific will have to offer. “I will do the very best that I can to guarantee my success, but ultimately it’s up to the weather and the ocean to determine whether they will let me cross.”

For more information, visit