It took 79 days, 8 hours and 38 minutes. Through heavy seas, strong winds, harsh rains and blazing heat they pulled. Across windless stretches, becalming swells and barren degrees they struggled. For 3,000 nautical miles they rowed, 24 hours a day, unassisted across the Atlantic Ocean.
More people have experienced zero gravity in outer space or summited Mt. Everest than have traversed the Atlantic Ocean in a rowboat. So what would drive someone to take on such a challenge? According to John Schwartz, “Experiencing the world second hand isn’t enough. Life will always march forward—you have to do what it takes to hold on and enjoy the ride.”
Dubbed “the world’s toughest row,” The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is a 3,000 nautical mile journey from the rocky coast of Spain’s Canary Islands to the crystal blue waters of Antigua. It is harrowing by any standard. Along the way, brothers John & Kurt Schwartz endured an endless series of trials: 30-foot swells, torrential downpours and 35-knot winds coupled with a broken navigation system, two shattered oars and an unrelenting 3hrs-on 3hrs-off rowing schedule. Sleep deprived, hungry and isolated, they rowed—motivated by an audacious dream, each other, and the memory of a fallen friend.
The challenge wasn’t just for them. With each row, they raised money for The SamFund, an organization that supports young adults who are recovering from the financial burden of cancer treatment. By accomplishing this incredible feat, they paid tribute to a friend, and all those who have had their lives impacted by cancer in one way or another. At the end of it all, recovering on the shores of Antigua, John and Kurt found themselves a collective 80 pounds lighter, in dire need of a cheeseburger and thankful for having survived the journey.