Solo, single-handed, or unsupported? That is the question.
Yesterday I read an article on www.theoceans.net which defines the rules on how to describe your expedition (and has a pop at Ben Saunders along the way). It has caused me 24 hours of worry – had I been blithely describing myself as solo, when in fact I am merely unsupported ?
Solo/single-handed is defined as “No assistance, no contact with other people throughout entire expedition”. Aha, I thought at first, that’s me.
But then I read the definition of unsupported. “No physical assistance during expedition”. Oh. maybe that was me instead, then, because although I’ll be entirely self-sufficient throughout my row, I’ll have a VHF radio and satphone on board – the former being a mandatory safety requirement so I can communicate with the safety vessel and/or alert big ships to my presence. It would be downright dangerous to be on an ocean without it.
Yet I’m a female, and in the solo class (as opposed to a pair or four) so didn’t that make me a solo female rower?
I turned to Ken Crutchlow of the Ocean Rowing Society for clarification. He rang this afternoon to reassure me that I am indeed a solo female rower, and am undeniably the first solo woman to row in a race across the Atlantic. Phew! I will also be unsupported (nothing to do with whether or not I’m wearing a bra) and, I guess, single-handed.
I’m still not 100% clear on the distinctions – Ellen MacArthur might be surprised to learn that she wasn’t solo within the Oceans.net definition. Pete Goss likewise. And HE thought he was solo/single-handed – although not in the way envisaged by a little old lady who once came up to him and said, “As if it isn’t hard enough sailing around the world on your own, they tie one hand behind your back as well?!” I wonder what she would have thought of a single-handed rower…