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HomeCruiseZeeman Ocean Challenge - Rowing Across Atlantic in 87 Days

Zeeman Ocean Challenge – Rowing Across Atlantic in 87 Days

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“More than 2,000 people have climbed Mount Everest.  More than 200 people have crossed an ocean in a rowing boat.  Just nine people have crossed the Pacific in a rowing boat.  No-one has ever done that without any support at all”…Ralph Tuijn.

Two Dutch brothers, Ralph and Michael Tuijn, ages 35 and 38, finished the first part of an incredible Ocean Challenge together on December 23rd in Curacao. They rowed across the Atlantic from La Gomorra in the Canaries to Curacao in the preceding 87 days! For Ralph, this dual expedition that started on September 27 was a way to conserve his strength for the real “ZEEMAN OCEAN CHALLENGE”,  a monster voyage he plans to start in March: crossing the Pacific Ocean at its widest point – solo! During this 10,000-miles crossing he will not make use of any motorized or wind-related power. It will take him between seven and nine months; non-stop, without re-supplies or any other support.

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Zeeman Textile Supers BV sponsors this extreme expedition. From the initial introduction, the Dutch company, which will be celebrating both its 40th anniversary and the opening of its 1000th store in Europe this year, has played a major role in the realization of the project. Not only by financial support but also by actively thinking about the challenges involved and coming up with solutions from its own business network. The fact that Zeeman (Dutch for “sailor”) has chosen a nautical sports project speaks for itself.

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The ZEEMAN OCEAN CHALLENGE is also a fundraising project for the “Save the Street Children of India” Foundation. The money raised by every mile rowed will go to a children’s home in Mumbai.

The bright yellow rowing boat, remarkably recognized by the blue and white sailor at both sides, was hand-made by Ralph Tuijn, who had a lot of support from professional Dutch boat-builder Maurits Oud. The “Rowsell & Morissen” type, specially designed for ocean rowing, has turned out to be far and away the safest and most successful model. 80% of all rowed ocean crossings took place using this type of boat, and no notable accidents have ever taken place with them. The boat measures 24 x 6 ft and has an unladen weight of around 880 lb. When fully loaded the weight will be around 2400 lb.

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The ZEEMAN CHALLENGER meets the international safety regulations for nautical vessels on open water and is equipped with ultramodern satellite communication systems. Concerning water makers, rowing positions, hatches, safety resources, power generation, solar panels, wind generator, rescue raft and the trailer, the boat clearly holds no secrets for Ralph. The website www.zeemanoceanchallenge.com provides a photo album about the making of the boat and more specific information about the 20 pieces of state-of-the-art navigation and communication equipment.

For part two of the challenge Ralph will set course from Peru to the city of Cairns in Australia, where he expects to arrive well before the end of the year. Before he leaves, the Challenger will be repaired and prepared in Curacao, were a mooring place is sponsored by Gijs Boer of the Curacao Marine Wharf. New AGM batteries and other necessities are being provided by Bas Reintjes, manager of the local Budget Marine branch.

Both managers spontaneously offered the brothers a tow from 24 miles north of Bonaire to Curacao when unexpected winds and currents forced them to this move to avoid the Challenger ending up on the rugged north coast of Curacao or drifting out to sea in the direction of Panama. Both unacceptable options made the difficult decision to get themselves towed for the last dozens of miles a dire necessity. A few miles before the challenger would enter Curacao’s Anna Bay, however, the boat was cast off to give the brothers a chance to row in on their own, and face hundreds of fans, family and friends with dignity—among them, their parents, Roos and Sjaak, and of course their spouses, Winnie and Dilia, and their children. In front of Curacao’s famous Handelskade, the hearty greetings were followed by a lightened flair, Champagne and well-deserved bier and cigars.

Despite wild beards, the brothers looked healthy and well fed in front of many cameras and microphones of the flocked media crowd. In the next issue a report of their personal experiences and tips how to row your boat gently over the ocean.


Ralph Tuijn (35) is an adventurer with many challenging expeditions to his name. Since the beginning of the 90s he has had a passion for the combination of endurance sports and nature in its most extreme form. He has visited the hottest, coldest, and most remote parts of the world, his guiding notions being: unmotorized and on his own power. He has covered more than 50,000 miles around the globe in this manner, cycling in temperatures of more than 50 degrees Celcius (122 Fahrenheit) through the desert, but also at temperatures as low as -55 (-67 F) degrees over frozen lakes and rivers in arctic Siberia. Ralph has cycled across the Greenland icecap without any support and he is the only person who has traveled from one end of Russia, the largest country in the world, to the other—twice.

In his quest for both the greatest challenge for the human body and the most expansive place on Earth he stumbled across a large blue area on the globe: the Pacific Ocean. No place else on the planet is bigger, more isolated, as inhospitable or as remote. An area almost as large as all the landmasses on the planet put together—the ultimate test in endurance sports.

“Crossing this ocean at its widest point, on my own and with no outside help, will be the ultimate trial and challenge for both my mind and my body. It is a quest to test the very limits of my abilities,” says utter adventurer Ralph.

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So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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