Tuesday, 6 Jun 2023

Record-seeking soldier rows through no-go zone where ‘rogue’ killer whales lurk

A British soldier so determined to set a new world record risked an encounter with "rogue" killer whales feared to attack boats by rowing through a no-go zone.

Jack Jarvis, 28, set off from Portugal on December 3, hoping to become the first person in the world to row the Atlantic Ocean all the way to Miami in the US.

And as if the physical and mental challenge of spending 120 days alone at sea was not enough, his route took him through waters where vessels have been attacked from underneath.

Last August Spain ordered small boats to avoid a stretch of the country’s southern coast following reports of more than 50 encounters with aggressive orcas.

Of those incidents, 25 boats were so damaged that they had to be towed to shore.

Speaking to the Daily Star from the middle of the ocean – 1,000 nautical miles south west of Tenerife to be exact – Jack said it was a relief to make it through the area unscathed.

Jack said: "During the summer last year the Spanish government put a ban on small vessels leaving the south of Spain because there was a rogue pod of orcas that were attacking small boats and severing the rudders.

"So it was definitely a good feeling once I punched 100 or 200 nautical miles away from the south coast of Portugal.

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"When I told my mum she said, 'You’re trying to give me an ‘f-ing’ heart attack'. I said, 'I plan to make it, mum, don’t worry.' My parents have been worried but on top of that they’ve been a great support, I can’t thank them enough.

Despite having little rowing experience let alone targeting anything near setting a new world record, Jack decided the challenge was a perfect way to fundraise for Brainstrust.

The charity is close to Jack's heart following his late grandad's death due to a brain tumour.

The soldier has spent the past 10 months training at least two hours a day, six days a week to make sure he is capable of rowing the jaw-dropping distance of 4,500 miles.

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Jack said: "The training has been fun, don’t get me wrong, it’s been tough, mentally and physically, but nothing I haven’t prepared for.

"I'm chipping away at the coal face.

"Hopefully I’ve done the hardest bit getting away from mainland Portugal.

"At the moment its very tough, I’m getting battered by winds from the north, the boat's constantly rocking and I’m getting hit with sea spray so I’m praying for those winds from the east to come through."

When Jack planned the trip he knew that his military background would prove just as useful as a consistent training regime.

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He explained: "My experience in the forces has helped hugely. People say 'you’ve never rowed an ocean before how do you expect to do it?'

"I said I may not have rowed an ocean before but I’ve certainly tested my mental capacity and robustness, desire and determination in other environments so it’s definitely helped."

Listing a few examples, Jack said: "My commando course – the famous 30 miler over Dartmoor – that was definitely tough.

"Deployments to Norway where if you’re not properly prepared the weather conditions will kill you, you’ve got to be tough out there as well.

"And operating in the jungle is a very unforgiving environment whether that be Caribbean jungle or in Brunei.

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"I’ve tasted the delights of mother nature we shall say."

Such exhibitions and various others also meant Jack did not get a sudden shock to the realities of not having the luxury of a toilet.

"It's old school," Jack who is out at sea totally alone with only a phone for comfort, said. "I’m using just a bucket of sea water, do my business and chuck it over the side, no creature comforts, certainly no bidet on board.

"Through my military career I have used multiple vessels defecating."

To donate to Jack's immense fundraising efforts click here.

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