MONMOUTH Rowing Club’s Elaine Theaker and Dingestow RAF veteran Huw Carden finished their epic 2,800-mile row across the Pacific Ocean from California to Hawaii in joyous style with their Team FlyinFish crew, lighting up the sky with flares.
Retired solicitor Elaine, who turned 60 in the first week of the exhausting voyage, and 63-year-old Huw entered Hanalei Bay and the record books on Wednesday, August 2, with their three boat mates.
Having rowed the Atlantic in a three-woman crew five years ago, mum-of-one Elaine – who was embraced on the beach by son Che after wading ashore – is the oldest woman to row across both oceans, while Huw, an ocean rowing novice beforehand, also became the oldest man to do the Pacific crossing.
And the team also set a record for a five-man crew, no mean feat given the lack off space on their 28-foot long Voyager boat.
The Monmouthsire duo and their Hampshire, Devon and Cornwall crew mates were enjoying a few days relaxing on dry land earlier this week before packing their bags to travel home.
They suffered a lost rudder early in the row, which saw them marooned on a para anchor and tossed around by huge waves for five days, before the seas calmed enough for Huw to bravely get into the water and fit the replacement, leaving them well adrift of the rest of the fleet. But they soldiered on, determined to finish and did so in joyous scenes captured on the event’s livestream footage.
Team FlyinFish celebrate after completing their 51-day row across the Pacific
Elaine, who celebrated her birthday with dehydrated fish in parsley sauce rather than birthday cake, told ITV after reaching dry land: “Four days into the row I had my 60th birthday. I thought shall I book a cruise? No. Shall I row? Yes, why not.”
And Huw added: “Age is just a number. If you want to do it, do it. This is my first row, thanks to this lady here (Elaine), over a coffee last year, that’s how it started. Would I row an ocean again at the age of 63, yes I would, most certainly because it was a very humbling experience.”
World’s Toughest Row: Pacific, who organised the 15-boat row, posted: “Team FlyinFish from the UK, have ended with a new world record as the first ever five to cross the Pacific Ocean! Andy Warner, Elaine Theaker, Alison Wannell, Neil Blackeby and Huw Carden with a time of 51 days, 5 hours & 44 minutes! What a finish!
“Four of Flyin’ Fish have rowed before, back in 2015, 2017 and 2018. They set off from Monterey, California, on June 12 and 51 days later they made it into Kauaʻi on a beautifully sunny morning to a huge crowd of supporters from both home and the local community.
“They have not only rowed a new world record, but Huw is now the oldest person to ever row the Pacific! Our team of five have inspired us all, showing that it is not just the destination but the journey that holds the most importance.
“Yesterday they were accompanied by a pod of dolphins who swam alongside them. On finishing Huw said, “When you’re out there it’s the purity of rowing. If you haven’t done it you can’t experience it, it’s just a different world and it’s a world of wonder”.
“Amidst the challenges that peppered their journey, the crew encountered an initial setback with their rudder during the first week.
“They successfully managed to replace it, showcasing their resourcefulness and resolve, allowing them to push onward.
“Their expedition was a true test of their endurance, fuelled by unwavering determination as they rowed on through the mental and physical exhaustion that this challenge asks.
“A huge congratulations to our final team in the World’s Toughest Row – Pacific 2023!”
Rowing in on-off stints around the clock and at times battling ‘freight train’ waves that knocked them clean off their seats, they also saw some amazing things, such as a flying fish going “clean over the boat”, “Elon Musk’s sky link satellites go over all in a row”, a whale, a Sun Fish, a porpoise and the dolphins.
You can watch their finish on the ‘World’s Toughest Row’ website, their YouTube channel and the crew’s Team FlyinFish Facebook page.
They are raising funds from their epic row for Air Ambulance – www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rowflyinfish – and SSAFA – www.justgiving.com/fundraising/flyin-fish1.