Coming Up Mon 12:00 PM  AEST
Coming Up Live in 
Russian radio

Record-breaking Russian priest to circumnavigate world in rowing boat

Fedor Konyukhov and his Akros boat Source:

Russian adventurer and 66-year-old Christian Orthodox priest Fedor Konyukhov wants to break yet another world record: circumnavigating the world in a rowing boat.

Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov is not unknown to the Australian public. In 2016 his epic landing of a bright yellow gondola and giant balloon on Western Australia's red soil surprised and impressed the nation.

It was the end of his round the world balloon trip, completed in a record 11 days and 11 hours.

Just two years on, Konyukhov is prepared to once again attempt an adventurous world-first. This time he aims to complete the first solo, unassisted circumnavigation of the world in a rowing boat.

Konyukhov expects that the first leg of his journey from New Zealand to Chile can be completed in 120 days, and this will be only one third of the full journey around the globe.

“You will wake up, and I will be rowing," he tells SBS Russian. "You will be at work and I will be rowing. You will have dinner, and I will be rowing. You will go to bed and I still will be rowing. Send me some positive thoughts and prayer - that is all I am asking for.”

Never been done

Unlike his previous record, when he emulated American adventurer Steve Fosset's balloon circumnavigation of the globe, there has been no successful solo rowing boat journey around the planet. 

Konyukhov's obstacles will include icebergs, ice floes, tempestuous storms, high waves and cold temperatures.  

But he is no an amateur adventurer. At 66 years of age he has completed over 50 expeditions, having climbed all the major summits of the world's continents, traversed the Atlantic Ocean 17 times and successfully sailed around the world five times.

“When I am on the shore with my family, I miss the albatrosses, whales and dolphins," Konyukhov says. "When I’m in the ocean, I miss my dear wife Irina.”

Three months in a nine metre space

The boat construction

Konyukhov's trip is split into three legs and he expects it to span over three years with all rowing planned to take place during summer months.

The first of the three legs, Dunedin, New Zealand to Cape Horn, Chile, is a 9900 km journey with Konyukhov hoping to complete it by March 2019.

The next leg of his odyssey will begin in December 2019, and by March 2020 Fedor will try to reach Australian shores near Albany in Western Australia.

Finally, in December 2020 he aims to launch from Albany to complete his journey back to Dunedin by March 2021.

Konyukhov's support crew has tracking systems ready and accessible online to monitor his progress across the oceans. High-end technology has been used by British engineers to construct his nine-metre-long rowing boat able to withstand treacherous weather conditions and accommodate Konyukhov for three months.

The modern rowboat comes equipped with the two satellite systems and three independent energy generators, charged via solar energy, wind power and fuel cells.

Together with his son Oscar, Konyukhov plans his adventures several years in advance. In 2014, when he reached the Sunshine Coast after spending 160 days rowing across the Pacific from Chile, he already knew his circumnavigation of the world in a rowing boat would happen.

Konyukhov touches solid ground for the first time after 160 days in the sea:

For his wife Irina, waving goodbye to Konyukhov each time he departs might be her last sight of him but she says letting him go with a light heart is a product of her faith.

As an Eastern Orthodox priest Konyukhov and his wife are deeply religious people. He says that in the ocean he experiences a type of solitude that few monks will ever experience.

“I am at that age when I am not interested in breaking the records," says Konyukhov. "I enjoy this unity with the nature and time to pray.”

Konyukhov departed on his journey on December 6, almost a month after the initial scheduled date. According to his son Oscar, who coordinates the trip from the ground, the rower is doing as good as the could only hope and the main task is alienate from New Zealand shores as quick as possible before the wind catches up with Konyukhov that potentially can bring him back to the harbour.