By Colleta Dewa
Johannesburg – South African extreme adventurer Zirk Botha received a hero’s welcome from locals at the Rio de Janeiro Yacht Club in Cabo Frio after he completed his solo sailing journey from Cape Town to Brazil on a climate change campaign.
Botha who set off from Cape Town in December last year arrived in Rio de Janeiro last week, safe and sound.
The ex-naval officer completed the solo trans-Atlantic trip on his boat Ratel, in a record 70 days. He set world records as the first person to row the route alone and unsupported by any safety craft, and for the fastest row on the Cape to Rio route
The South African consul-general in Brazil, Tinyiko Kumalo, was among those who feted Botha.
“One can only imagine the challenges you faced and had to overcome during your solo, unsupported journey as you navigated through the rough Atlantic Ocean for many days. What a brave man you are! The nation takes pride in your success. As representatives here in Brazil, we recognise the important role this initiative plays in strengthening the relations between SA and Brazil,” Kumalo said.
Botha made the 7,200km solo journey to raise awareness of environmental issues like climate change and the impact humans have on nature.
“When I started planning this trip two years ago people said I was mad. I want to encourage everyone to dream big, do big and never to allow anyone to discourage you. Life is a great adventure.
“This signalled the end of my 4,000nm/7,200km transatlantic crossing from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro in 70 days / 10 weeks, since my departure on 19 December 2020. I celebrated with a much-appreciated burger and coke, from wonderful locals, and then spent Saturday resting and absorbing my experience, before going on to the official welcome in Cabo Frio, where I received a massive welcome,” said Botha.
Botha was excited to have followed in the footsteps of another adventurer who rowed similar route years back.
“In 1984, Brazilian hero Amyr Klink crossed the South Atlantic in a wooden boat in 100 days from Namibia to Bahia (3,700nm). Today I want to salute this legend. My Cape Town to Rio route in 2020-2021 (70 days) was slightly different and longer at 4,000nm, and I have a more technologically advanced boat. I am honoured to follow in the footsteps of this living legend!” Botha added.
Although he arrived two weeks ahead of schedule, it was not an easy journey.
“While I have had near-perfect weather to facilitate a record-breaking crossing, the weather has been intense, with only two calm days over the whole crossing. The relentless nature of the weather has been mentally draining. I wasn’t prepared for that type of challenge,” said Botha.