OAR Northwest
OAR Northwest

Jordan Hanssen and Greg Spooner formed half of the four-man crew, OAR Northwest, that won the first international ocean rowing race from New York to England – the North Atlantic Rowing Race in 2006. It took them 71 days, 3 hours, twenty-two minutes to complete the 3,100 nautical mile crossing. The biggest challenge turned out to be, not the cold or the sleep deprivation, but hunger, when they discovered that due to a miscalculation they did not have enough rations.

That adventure is documented in Jordan’s book, Rowing into the Son – one of the best ocean rowing books I’ve ever read.

Jordan and Greg followed that up by rowing around the Olympic Peninsula in 2008.

Then Jordan was part of a 4-man team – and Greg was expedition coordinator – aiming to row from Africa to the Americas at the start of this year, which came to a premature end after 73 days when two waves hit at just the wrong moment.


Deep Teamwork

Jordan Hanssen
Jordan Hanssen

“There’s four people on that boat, so each person represents 25% of that boat’s power, so if you start saying things to someone and start isolating them, you’re hurting yourself.” (Jordan Hanssen)

Imagine that you’re starving hungry. Now imagine that you’re starving hungry, sleep-deprived, rowing 12 hours a day, and lurching around in a tiny rowboat in the chilly North Atlantic. And the guy who screwed up and got the rations wrong is sitting two feet away from you. Would you have the strength and wisdom not to give him a hard time about it – on an hourly basis?

I’m not sure I would. At least if anything was screwed up on my boat, I had only myself to blame.

OAR Northwest found themselves in this situation when Brad Vickers discovered that, due to his miscalculation over portion sizes, they were going to run out of food if they did not ration. Words were said, quite naturally, yet somehow they managed to hold the team together.

Apart from their methodical preparation and meticulous attention to detail, one of the aspects of OAR Northwest’s way of operating that impresses me most is their teamwork. And it started long before the voyage, when they chose to all move in together and share a house for the preceding year. So by the time they got in the boat, they already knew each other’s foibles, quirks, and idiosyncrasies – the things that could drive you crazy in extremis.

And I loved what Jordan said, quoted above. It strikes me that a lot of families and partners in relationships – even colleagues at work – could do to remember this. I’m sure we can all think of examples of dysfunctional groups that have lost sight of the goal, and devolved into point-scoring and infighting – most governments, for starters. Effective teamwork is not a battle of egos or trying to prove who is right or who is wrong – it’s about getting the job done.


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Show Notes

0:45 Roz’s recommendation from Audible.com this week is the Outlander series, by Diana Gabaldon. Please follow our affiliate link to claim your free audiobook.

4:50 Apology for our sound quality (mostly Roz’s fault) and introducing our guests

Greg Spooner
Greg Spooner

7:00 Not small guys, these OAR Northwest rowers

7:45 How Greg and Jordan got into ocean rowing

10:30 The crew that lives and rows and eats together, stays together

13:15 Extreme hunger

16:25 Rowing Into The Son – Jordan’s book

17:00 Rowing the Olympic Peninsula – a variety pack of waterscapes

18:50 Having the right equipment makes a world of difference – geeking out on Gig Harbor Boatworks and wooden oars

24:20 The Mid-Atlantic Row 2013 – unlucky

28:00 The events of that fateful day: April 6

33:40 Getting the boat back, against the odds

35:00 If you’re planning an ocean row, here’s what you need to know about rescues

37:20 NBC to screen the story of the rescue

39:30 The education program



Oar Northwest website

Rowing into the Son

Canadian Wildlife Federation – sponsors of the Mid Atlantic Row

Gig Harbor Boatworks

Sawyers Paddles and Oars

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