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Northwest Passage Expedition team rows from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Orkney Distillery

Posted on: 29 July 2021

A crew from the Northwest Passage Expedition team, proudly supported by Maritime London, has completed rowing from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Kirkwall as part of the training for next year’s bid to be the first to row the Northwest Passage, the Arctic route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The team set off from the Newcastle Quayside on Monday, 19th July expecting to complete the 350-mile journey to Kirkwall in 7-10 days but did it in 132 hours, just over 5 days.

Crew member Jack Hopkins says: “We have just completed our first training outing for our Arctic expedition next year: a 350 mile row from Newcastle to Orkney. The row took us 132 hours, and went off without a hitch. We quickly adopted our 2-hour-on-2-hour-off routine, saw a lot of wildlife (whales, seals, dolphins) and the huge engineering projects in the North sea. Additionally, we beat the HMS Charger P292 by 12 hours over the same distance (admittedly we stopped off at Edinburgh)!”

Crew member Phil Kite says: “Upon our arrival it was great to see some friends and family of crew member Davie Flett on the Quayside awaiting our arrival and cheering us in, it meant a lot to the crew.  The whole crew eventually crashed out at the Flett’s after Fiona had cooked breakfast and we had a celebratory Northwest Passage Expedition Gin.

The crew has been rowing in Avalon – a 44ft, eight crew, 4 rowing position ocean rowing boat – visible from the coast for most of the journey. Crew members included ocean rowers Leven Brown, Jack Hopkins, Mark Agnew, Philip Als, Davie Flett and Al Huntly, as well as Claire Hughes and Phil Kite both from the North East, who in 2018/19 rowed the Atlantic Ocean, with Team Tyne Innovation.

Avalon is now decked out in the livery of Northwest Passage Expedition Gin, the award-winning gin launched by the team, to help fund the Arctic expedition, due to take place in 2022, and support the team’s marine conservation partners, Big Blue Ocean Cleanup. Sponsor’s logos will also be displayed.

Speaking ahead of the trip north, expedition Leader Leven Brown said: “We are delighted to start our offshore training with a row from Newcastle upon Tyne to Kirkwall. Each of the crew have been training on their own under covid restrictions and with those gradually lifted now is a chance to bring the team together.

The row to Orkney is a challenge in its own right and will help with team bonding and developing the appropriate skills required for the Arctic expedition. The 44ft Avalon is a beast of a rowing boat, designed with the Northwest Passage in mind, and I am looking forward to seeing how the crew work together.

Crew member Phil Kite said “When Claire and myself finished the row of the Atlantic with Team Tyne Innovation in 2019, I said never again, but here we are training together once again to row an ocean, this time the Arctic! We are both looking forward to this training row up to Orkney with such an experienced crew, most having rowed an ocean, and it will be another great experience. Setting off from Newcastle was really exciting but the North Sea can be rather challenging, so fingers cross we get fair winds pushing us north. On our expedition we are pleased to be supported by Maritime London who have helped us market our Northwest Passage Expedition. Such unique and world first challenges come at a cost and we are always looking for sponsors who want to be part of our amazing journey”.

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