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Solo rower Katie Spotz, 22, alters course, adding extra miles and days to her transatlantic attempt

March 8, 2010 | 11:46 am

Katie Spotz cools off in the Atlantic Ocean. Katie Spotz, 22, is nearing the completion of her record-breaking attempt to become the youngest person to solo row across the Atlantic Ocean.

She was on track to make land this week but just had a change in course and is now heading for Georgetown, Guyana, instead of Cayenne, French Guiana, adding 400 miles to her 2,500-mile journey and extending it an estimated five to seven days.

This is not because Spotz doesn't want the trek to end -- she's been rowing for more than two months now, putting in at least 10 hours of rowing and 10,000 strokes daily -- but because the change will allow her a better chance to reach land unassisted via a safer route.

Here's Spotz's explanation for the destination change, posted on her blog:

Rowing into Cayenne is very difficult unless the weather is very calm. Because of the current coming up the South American coast, the waves coming from the north and the wind coming from the east, the sea becomes very messy unless there is almost no wind. At the moment, the wind is about 20kt -- that doesn’t count as “no wind”! I’ve been told that, with the weather and the sea like it is now, I’d almost certainly need a tow for the last few miles into port to avoid certain death. Well … I want to row all the way and, having been out here for over 2 months, what’s another 2 weeks between friends?

Although the route to Cayenne is shorter and will end my journey sooner, by diverting my route to the north and continuing a track to Georgetown, the seas should be less aggressive and, weather permitting, my hope is that it will allow me to conclude my journey as I have conducted it: solo!

One of the large vessels now in sight. Spotz can tell she's nearing land, saying she can "almost smell it." She also reached shipping lanes and is now contending with rowing in 7 to 10 foot waves with freighters nearby, hoping that the technology onboard for communicating and viewing other boats is working, because "my boat can easy tuck away so that I am barely visible," making for a slightly unnerving experience which ranks high on Spotz's "Why ocean rowing is frightening" list.

Spotz has not been completely alone lately and has enjoyed having a bit of company. A couple of sea birds decided to spend a night, noisily and messily perched on the solar panels mounted on "Liv," her 400-pound, 19-foot specialized ocean rowing boat.

A dolphin swims near Spotz' boat. There have also been dorado, which have been following under the vessel. Spotz gave a few of these nicknames -- Ed, Edd, and Eddie -- and was taking delight in their presence until Day 61, when some dolphin decided to join in and promptly made a meal of Edd.

Not only has Spotz made record time (the journey was estimated to take 70 to 100 days), she's surpassed her original fundraising target of $50,000 for the Blue Planet Run Foundation, a charitable organization that funds safe-drinking water projects around the world, so has now increased that target to $60,000, with $53,580.30 raised thus far.

Perhaps the course change will not only help Spotz attain her goal of making the entire journey unassisted but also allow a bit more time for the fundraising end of it as well. Here's hoping she attains both objectives successfully.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo (top): Katie Spotz cools off in the Atlantic Ocean. Credit: Katie Spotz

Photo (center): One of the large vessels now in sight. Credit: Katie Spotz

Photo (bottom): A dolphin swims near Spotz' s boat. Credit: Katie Spotz


Atlantic Ocean solo rower Katie Spotz shares some thoughts from her mother

Katie Spotz, 22, past the halfway mark in her Atlantic Ocean solo row attempt

Katie Spotz, 22, is attempting to become the youngest person to complete solo row across the Atlantic Ocean

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