A new chapter in New Zealand sporting adventure begins this October when the four-man Team Gallagher rowing team will aim to become the first New Zealand team to cross the Tasman by oar power.
The challenge will require the team to complete some half a million strokes over 1,400 nautical miles - using the iconic harbour bridges of Sydney and Auckland as the start and finish lines.
The campaign was conceived by club rower, Nigel Cherrie and New Zealand ocean rowing stalwart, Rob Hamill. Hamill won the inaugural Atlantic Rowing Race along with the late Phil Stubbs, wrote the book about their remarkable achievement called ‘The Naked Rower', and then went onto become campaign manager to the winning 2001 and 2003 Kiwi entries in the trans-Atlantic rowing race.
Hamill is campaign director and will not participate in the 2011 row. Instead he’s leaving the month long row from Australia to New Zealand to Nigel Cherrie (35, of Auckland, team leader), Martin Berka (36, Auckland), James Blake (25, Dunedin) and Andrew McCowan (26, Hamilton).
Speed and teamwork are the focus of the team in preparing for what some would consider to be an exercise in madness.
Rowing in a team of four across a vast stretch of water is a very unusual kind of challenge. Each member must deal with living in a confined space of less than few square meters with three other men for up to 30 days. Small personal differences, exaggerated by fatigue, difficult conditions and a diet of boil in the bag food, could lead to conflict.
But through good preparation - physical and mental - the team can push harder, achieve greater average speeds and set new benchmarks in crossing times.
The four weeks of rowing between Sydney and Auckland promises to be a roller-coaster ride on the challenging Tasman for Team Gallagher.
The rowers will rotate in shifts - two hours at the oars, two hours off to replenish. Their backsides are going to hurt for four weeks. They'll be peppered with blisters and salt water sores on the hands and feet.
Perhaps more daunting is that they'll be stuck on a 10.5-metre boat in hurling seas in all sorts of surly weather with home comforts such as a shower, kitchen, comfy bed or toilet (unless you count the bucket).
The team realise exhaustion will be a significant mental barrier. Just to keep going they’ll consume an incredible 8000-10,000 calories a day (on a fat-rich diet) but will still each lose 20 percent of their bodyweight.
Despite all this, the four Team Gallagher rowers are excited.
"It's the adventure that excites me the most," says Andrew McGowan. "Going into something which is unknown to me and finding out the limits I have and could achieve."