You want to row an Ocean? Where do you start?

Forums Ocean Rowing You want to row an Ocean? Where do you start?

  • Post
    Matt Mason
    Deciding to row an ocean is a huge undertaking that for most people is a daunting and incredibly expensive process. Choosing which ocean and route to do, whether to complete a race or independent crossing, to which ports or marina’s to use. Also boat types for the crossing or sort of row you want partake in are also things to consider, along with pieces of equipment you probably have never heard of (the list is endless)…all are just some of the things that you will need to know and plan for as part of a successful crossing.


    Planning for an ocean, row means planning to a high degree of detail from your calorie intake, to what spare nuts and bolts you will have, sponsor acquisition, to the best and value for money kit for every job onboard. Hopefully, we can build an ocean rowing platform that people just starting out or veteran rowers can access a huge amount of information and experience in the coming topics.

    In the coming weeks topics such as;


    Types of boats

    Sponsorship and charities

    Charity fundraising

    Important equipment


    Wind vs Solar power

    All will be discussed and we invite you to get involved, ask questions and hopefully find some answers.





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      Matt, what is a typical training week like?  I get daily workouts sent to me for use on my Concept 2.
      Baz Gray

      Is there much difference in the type and size of boat you use for a Solo, pair or 4 man crew?

      How do you decide how large the team should be?




      Matt Mason

      Baz Gray: Matt


      Is there much difference in the type and size of boat you use for a Solo, pair or 4 man crew?

      How do you decide how large the team should be?





      Hi Baz,


      So what type of boat and size crew you use depends on a whole number of factors with probably the 2 biggest being budget and whether you are entering a race such as the Talisker Atlantic Race or doing an independent ocean crossing (not part of an organised event). Let us discuss the two types of event and then I will start on the 2 main types of boat along with their pro’s and con’s.

      Organised races

      I have never taken part in an ocean rowing organised race so it would be great to get some feed back here on my points. The first thing is that there is an entry fee…and it ain’t cheap! To enter the Talisker it is over £20,000 (may be more for 2021) which all of a sudden has added potentially 20% or more to your budget. This is obviously problematic but what do you get for your money that keeps competitors signing up year on year? In a nutshell, it is experience and a community that is in it together. If you have never rowed or sailed an ocean, never fundraised for charity or had to attract corporate sponsorship, you have an entire organisation and other competitors to turn to for advice and their experience. Not to mention 2 x safety boats that follow the race across the Atlantic, race Dr’s for medical issues, ocean rowing specialists that can advise on issues be it technical or personal and a grand finally and start with an amazing atmosphere.


      The fact that it is a race can add other factors, many people that enter are not interested in racing, they are there for the experience, however if you are there to race, you will want the best boat on the market, as the boat along with the weather are what wins races, not necessarily the crew. I will talk about boats in a few paragraphs.


      Independent row

      Independent rows tend to be done by more experience rower, teams or people that have already crossed an ocean and feel that they don’t need the support and £20,000 price tag an organised event offers. Independent rows can row any route and leave and marina at any time that fits them. They are not tied to a race calendar or dates. This allows huge flexibility and also offers a lot more freedom as to what kit and equipment they take (although I must stress that a lot of independent rowers will look at an organised races kit and equipment list as a gold standard). There is also a lot less pressure on what boat you use as there is no race to win! Going independent is a feat on its own as it can often be a very lonely experience especially if your team is struggling to attract sponsorship with no organisation to seek advise.


      Boats – OPEN CLASS/CONCEPT/BLOW BOAT (all the same type just different names they are referred to)

      The concept class boat is the fastest on the market…and the most expensive (between £45,000 and £65,000 second hand and new you would expect to pay over £80,000).  They are predominantly used in organised races due to their speed. They are lightweight and shallow hulled so they sit on top of the water, they also have a much larger bow (front cabin) that is designed to catch and circulate the wind, hugely increasing speed. This however is a double edged sword as if the wind is against you, it will have more of a negative effect. This type of boat (if you have the budget for it and are happy with the wind assistance…which most people are) is good for routes that have a constant and predictable wind direction. The Concept boat has been especially successful on the Atlantic trade winds routes from the Canaries to the Caribbean or South America.

      Pro’s – Fast, light and well built

      Neg’s – Expensive, not ideal for unpredictable weather routes, prone to capsize due to flat bottom.


      Pure Class Boats

      Pure class boats are of a more ‘old school’ design were the bow cabin(front) is smaller than the stern cabin (back). They are not as effected by the wind and have no real advantage of wind assistance. They tend to have a v-shaped hull meaning they are slower in the water but more stable. Pure class boats are a lot cheaper than their Concept cousins and can be built out of anything from plywood to carbon fibre. You can pick up a plywood ocean rowing boat for under £10,000 but a top of the range pure class carbon fibre boat could be up to £40,000 second hand and £60,000 new. These boats are great for if you are on a budget, they are well built and reliable with the majority of the same equipment on board as the Concept class, they are just a little slower due to the windage or lack of. If you are not under time restrictions for work or home life to cross an ocean in a certain time then this is a great option and one many independent rowers take.


      Pro’s – Cheaper than the Concept class, known for being stable, well built and good for routes with unpredictable wind and weather, most have 2 cabins large enough to sleep.

      Neg’s – Slower


      Crew size

      The bigger the crew, generally the more help to finding corporate sponsorship and raising the targets you set for raising money for your chosen charities (this however is not always the case).  It also means you can spread the work load when full-filling corporate sponsorship obligations (again not always the case). The bigger the crew generally means you will be faster across the ocean and have an amazing experience to share with your team mates. If racing, it also depends on what crew class you want to enter.


      Hope this helps.





      Matt Mason
      Hans: Matt, what is a typical training week like?  I get daily workouts sent to me for use on my Concept 2. [/bquote]


      Any Ocean rower will tell you that you don’t have to ultra fit or an amazing rower to row an ocean you have to be in shape, injury free (if possible) and have the right mindset and attitude. In terms of fitness, this differs from person to person, however ocean rowing is the ultimate ‘plod’ but sitting on a machine for hours on end isn’t necessarily the best way to prepare your body to row an ocean. I mean how do you prepare for rowing over 12 hours a day, anything from 30 days to 120 days?


      For myself it’s all about building power, strength and mental resilience. Build power and strength through weight training and big functional compound movements, transfer this too short and sharp sprints on the rower. When ocean rowing, you will be rowing with the ocean and the wave sequences, this translates to on average between 12 and 18 strokes per minute (SPM) depending on fatigue etc. So in my opinion, focus on sprint session keeping a low SPM (I have thrown in a few sprint sessions below). It is however good to get a longer session in but I never tend to do longer than an hour, again focus on a low SPM.

      One area that always tends to get over looked is flexibility. Yoga sessions are phenomenal at building corps strength and all round flexibility. When a rogue wave hits you a 2am and your body jolts or strains, good flexibility is pivotal in injury prevention. Sitting down for 12 hours with no real space to stretch means you have to turn up injury free and as supple as possible so build in lots of stretching and corps strength.

      Mental Resilience – get comfortable being uncomfortable.  Every few weeks do a session or small challenge (doesn’t have to be particularly rowing related) that will absolutely throw you out of your comfort zone. You need to build layers of  resilience and a mind-set that is ready to deal with those incredibly hard and lonely moments. I did a number of 80-100km sessions on the rower whilst raising money in supermarkets (pretty horrific), 30 mile run/marches and long cold water swims (without wets suits) in a bid to get my mind in the right place (potentially turn these into charity fundraising events to raise money for your expels chosen charity).

      Rowing sprint sessions I enjoy are;

      10 or 15 sets of either

      300m sprints (keeping SPM below 25) aiming for under 1 minute with 45 sec rest in between each set (hurt locker)

      400m (same as above but in under 1 min 20 sec and 1 min rest)

      500m (Same as above but under 1 min 40 sec and 1 min 15 sec)

      5 x 1000m in sub 3 min 20 sec with a 2 min rest between sets.





      Touchline Coach
      The mental Resilience, Flexibility and Core Strength you speak about Matt are really interesting when transferred to a business setting, the same features apply.
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