Atlantic rowers set themselves an ambitious ‘Carbon Zerow’ challenge SEARCH NEWS


A racing team taking part in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge (TWAC) has pledged to make their 3,000 mile ocean-rowing race carbon neutral with the help of World Land Trust’s (WLT) Carbon Balanced programme.

The team will leave La Gomera in the Canary Islands on December 12, 2017, and will row their nine metre-long boat unassisted across the Atlantic 24 hours a day until they arrive in the Caribbean.

Although it might be assumed that an unassisted ocean-rowing race may already be carbon neutral, it is actually far more complicated than that, the ‘Carbon Zerow’ team tells WLT, especially when the team members live all around the globe.

Carbon neutral Atlantic Crossing

The team, comprising Kyle Smith, James Lamb, Philip Van Benthem and Brian Kerr, began their carbon neutral project on January 1st 2016 when they committed to the TWAC and began training.  As part of their carbon neutrality, they began recording all travel, overnight stays and equipment purchased for the event for their carbon-auditing partner The Carbon Trust, from that date. In order to cut their emissions they are making efforts to take public transport rather than cars or planes and purchasing used equipment rather than new, wherever possible.

The crew members are leaving no stone unturned and have decided that, due to the high carbon emissions associated with mammal livestock, they have given up red meat for the duration of the project (which ends March 31st 2018). Considering the demanding training regime, this is actually the most difficult part of the challenge, crew member Kyle Smith tells WLT.

Preparing for the 3,000 mile row

There are good reasons why more people have been into space, or climbed Mount Everest than have rowed the Atlantic- it is a mammoth challenge. So, how do you prepare to row from the Canary Islands across the Atlantic Ocean to Antigua unassisted? Despite the team members being split between the US and the UK, they all have different sporting and training experience to advise and support each other through the process, says Kyle.

“You might very well loathe the man next to you, but you’ll be completely dependent on him and he will be on you.”
Kyle Smith, Carbon Zerow

“We’ve been told that ocean rowing is all about having a strong posterior chain. I come from an endurance swimming and running background which means I haven’t really lifted heavy weights in the past. With the help of Phil who has strength training experience and James who has rowing experience I’ll hopefully continue to gain strength and improve my rowing technique.”

“There’s no doubt that you must be physically strong to compete in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge,” adds fellow rower Phil Van Benthem. “But there is an aspect of this training that is often overlooked, and something that is much harder to train for: the mental endurance it takes to complete this 40+ day row. There will be times when we’ll be wet, cold, and scared.

“You might very well loathe the man next to you, but you’ll be completely dependent on him and he will be on you. As a team we’re planning endurance exercises and challenges, not to just push our bodies, but to push our minds and learn to operate as a team. That’s the only way we’ll succeed.”

Working with WLT

Although they have reduced their emissions significantly through their travel, equipment and diet commitments, the team will still have unavoidable emissions that would prevent them from being carbon neutral (where net emissions equal zero), which are being calculated by The Carbon Trust.

“In order to make a carbon neutral claim we must purchase ‘verified carbon offset credits’ for the CO2 emissions that we have been unable to prevent through this expedition,” says Kyle. “Having met with the WLT team we have confidence that their carbon offsetting and Carbon Balancing projects are well planned and executed.”

But becoming carbon neutral is not the end of the crew’s commitment to the environment, says Phil. “It’s safe to say that each one of us comes from a different spectrum in terms of backgrounds and even places of birth, yet the one thing that unites us is our steadfast resolve to protect the environment.”

“We believe in WLT’s mission, and if rowing across the ocean to raise awareness for the WLT mission is the best way for us to be stewards of our environment, then that’s what we’ll do.”

carbon zerow logo

More information

The Carbon Zerow team are looking for individual and corporate sponsorship, and a portion of the funds raised for through their GoFundMe campaign will be donated to WLT projects.

Find out more about the Carbon Zerow mission »

Follow the team’s training on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter »

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