Three friends from Belgium are waiting for the weather to improve to set off on an incredible journey across the Atlantic Ocean which will see them rowing more than 7,000kms from Portimão in the Algarve to Miami in Florida, USA.
The gargantuan challenge is part of one of the rowers’ dream to reach the top of the highest mountains in each continent using “only human power”.
The Resident spoke to 35-year-old Jelle Veyt this week about how he and two friends, Koen De Gezelle and Gijs Vanden Bogaerde, will be departing from Portimão, as soon as the weather improves, on a high-end ocean rowboat.
“We expect to be two to three months at sea,” Jelle, a physiotherapist and now full-time adventurer, told us. “We were due to depart last Friday, but the meteorologist who we are working with informed us about a storm near the Canary Islands which could impact our journey.”
Now it is only a matter of receiving the green light from the meteorologist for the epic rowing challenge to begin, he explained.
While it might seem like a once-in-a-lifetime expedition, the truth is this has been Jelle’s way of life since 2013 when he decided to try to make history by becoming the first person in the world to reach all of the world’s highest peaks by only walking, cycling, rowing, climbing or skiing; in other words, using only his own strength to travel from peak to peak.
So far, he has already reached the top of Mount Elbrus (Russia), Mount Everest (China and Nepal) and Carstensz Pyramid (Indonesia). In 2020, he travelled to Congo to try to reach the top of Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) but was unable to continue his journey due to the pandemic.
Now, his sights are set on reaching the top of Denali (Alaska, USA), the highest mountain peak in North America.
His latest goal saw him departing his hometown of Dendermond in Belgium at the start of January and cycling over 2,400kms to reach Portimão, from where he plans to begin his rowing adventure with his friends to Miami. From there, he plans to cycle another 10,000kms on his own to reach Alaska and attempt to climb Denali.
If he is successful, he’ll have reached four of his targeted seven peaks.
“I’ll have three left to go. I’m expecting to spend five to eight more years on this challenge,” Jelle told us.
But for now, his focus is on successfully completing the rowing journey across the Atlantic.
With him along for the journey will be boat builder and captain, Koen De Gezelle, and engineer and sailor, Gijs Vanden Bogaerde, who will be aboard what they call a high-end ocean rowboat which will be their home and their lifeline for two to three months.
“We will be rowing in two-hour shifts,” Jelle told us, adding that the idea is for each of them to row two hours and then have two hours to rest or eat.
“We also have 400 days-worth of dried food, a water purifier, a GPS system and will be receiving a weather update every day,” he said.
The three men will also be collecting rainwater for drinking and showering.
But are there any safety concerns, especially if the trio faces a storm during the journey?
“This boat is built in a way that allows is to turn itself back up again if it capsizes. We will also be able to hide in the cabin,” the adventurer explained.
Jelle and his friends are hoping to leave Portimão by Friday at the latest and are inviting everyone to follow their journey online and even send a “supporting message or great joke” for them to read while they’re out at sea.
You can read more about Jelle’s journey and track his progress at www.jelleveyt.be and more about the rowboat at www.whaleboat.be.
By MICHAEL BRUXO