Burger, chips and a Coke for SA solo paddler Zirk Botha as he makes it safely to Brazil

28 February 2021 - 14:32
By TimesLIVE
Zirk Botha recuperating in Buzios.
Image: Supplied Zirk Botha recuperating in Buzios.

A Coke, burger and chips were the first meal for extreme adventurer Zirk Botha, who rowed from Cape Town to Brazil.

The ex-naval officer completed his solo transatlantic ocean crossing on his boat “Ratel”, from SA to Brazil in a record 70 days, covering a total distance of 7,200km. Botha was rowing for the planet and sustainable development.

After leaving Cape Town on December 19, Botha rowed into the small bay of Buzios, just north of Rio de Janeiro, at 3.45am on Saturday, SA time.

After recuperating in Buzios on Saturday, he rowed on to Cabo Frio on Sunday to receive a welcome at the original Rio de Janeiro Yacht Club. He was escorted in by a flotilla of boats and welcomed by locals, dignitaries and media.

Ironically, none of Botha's SA family or friends could be at the finish, as South Africans are currently blocked from entering Brazil, due to Covid-19 related travel restrictions.

In completing the south transatlantic crossing, he has 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.

Zirk Botha in Buzios.
Image: Supplied Zirk Botha in Buzios.

A similar route was previously completed by SA duo Wayne Robertson and Braam Malherbe in 92 days, in 2017.

Stepping off his boat “Ratel” onto Brazilian soil for the first time in Buzios after months at sea, Botha described his legs as very wobbly, and the experience as totally overwhelming.

“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,” he said.

On his row, Botha had to deal with the multiple challenges of wild seas, sleep deprivation, isolation, and the risk of encountering ships.

“While I had near-perfect weather conditions to facilitate a record-breaking crossing, it has been intense, with only two calm days over the whole crossing. The relentless nature of the weather has been physically and mentally draining. I wasn't prepared for that type of challenge,” he said.

Botha says he’s most looking forward to eating fresh, unprocessed food. He’s lost a significant amount of weight, an estimated 10kg, and is struggling to consume enough food to match his energy requirements now.

“The first thing I did on arrival was to eat a burger, chips and a Coke, which I was craving and it tasted amazing. I know I need to start rebuilding my body now, with healthy fresh food. I am physically exhausted.”

The SA consul general in Brazil, Tinyiko Kumalo, congratulated 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.