In 1987, Andreu Mateu from Tarragona, in Spain, went to work in the Commercial Office of the Spanish Embassy, in New York, armed with a law degree in Enterprise Sciences, a Masters in Company Administration and, as he puts it, “a full knapsack of dreams”. Five years later, Andreu decided to change his entire life and focus on those dreams, so he gave up his job and set off on a journey that was to take him to 120 countries. He took with him a camcorder, two cameras and a laptop.
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His modes of travel were many; Europe on a bike, Africa on a motor bike, the passage of the Straits of Gibraltar by swimming and then he decided to cross the Atlantic, solo sailing and bought a 30 foot boat. The only problem was that he didn’t know how to sail!
“It was a big challenge.” says Andreu “I never sailed, but I decided to do it and I learned in one month and did it. The satisfaction of conquering that challenge was very good for my confidence and it was a great experience. It took me 34 days, from Las Palmas, Grand Canaria, to Miama, Florida”.
In October 1995, Andreu Mateu returned to Spain, with more than 12,000 photographs, and 170 hours of video and a realisation of the benefits of fulfilling his dreams.
Andreu became impassioned by the idea of being able to share and transmit his experiences in the business world and, whilst he was organising his material for motivational conferences, articles and radio programs, prestigious international consultant Coopers & Lybrand entrusted him with the organisation of a program of Outdoor Motivation.
From then on, Andreu decided to dedicate himself to advocating the benefits that a determined mentality, coupled with some outdoor challenges, can have for both individuals and organisations and he became a pioneer in the organisation of outdoor events and activities for companies.
After 10 years of hard work in that field, Andreu decided that the time had come, once again, to fulfill a dream of his own, one that had haunted him from the day he arrived in Miami, after sailing solo across the Atlantic; to row alone and unsupported, across the Atlantic.
Andreu Mateu began his solo Atlantic row last December, in a boat that had been intended for the Woodvale Event 2005 crossing, but became an abandoned project and was rebuilt for him.
Andreu’s biggest worry about being alone and without support is his health. He’s a very fit man, but is, nevertheless, concerned about staying fit and not getting sick or injured, maybe breaking an arm, or leg.
Storms worry him too, because he can’t control the weather. He is hoping to have good weather for 80% of the time, but is just a little bit concerned that in 60 to 90 days at sea, he might encounter a very big storm.
Another worry is collision. He thinks that commercial traffic may not see such a small boat and has heard stories of vessels being hit by a whale’s tail, which he fears would break his boat.
In case of emergency disabling his boat, Andreu has an inflatable liferaft and carries three ways of communicating that he’s an trouble; an EPIRB an ARGOS beacon and a satellite phone.
Not so much a worry, but still a concern, is pain and suffering. He says “I know I am going to have it, especially in my arms and my hands. Rowing for so long is going to ruin my hands and also my arse. This is probably where I am going to suffer most; the two parts of my body that it’s going to be hard on.”
Competitors in the last Atlantic Rowing Race constantly reported problems with very painful sores on their bottoms and Andreu was resigned to suffering in the same way, though he has done what he can to minimise the problem. His precautions include several different kinds of foam, to put on his seat and a variety of creams that will help to reconstruct his skin, when he starts getting sores.
Andreu has taken fishing gear and hopes to supplement a high carbohydrate diet, of mainly dehydrated food, with lots of fresh fish. The dehydrated food is the sort used by astronauts. “Chicken with rice, chicken with noodles, chicken with ...” he laughs, but he does have icecream too!
Drinking water will be mainly produced daily, by a watermaker that makes about 6 litres an hour and is powered by two 80 amp hour batteries, connected in parallel. The batteries are charged by six solar panels.
As a back up, Andreu has a hand operated water maker and carries about 100 litres of fresh water, which also acts as the ballast of the boat and makes it self right in case of capsize.
On the last Atlantic Row there was considerable trouble with loss and breakage of oars and this is another concern for Andre because, as he says, “There is not much I could do for the oars to prevent losing them, and I might, so I have three pairs with me.”
Andreu Matteu started his Atlantic crossing at La Gomera, in the Canary Islands, on
December 2, 2006 at 11.40 am (GMT). After 50 days of rowing, he had not quite reached the half way point, having followed a somewhat zigzag path, since suffering rudder failure, which he has been unable to repair.
You can follow his progress on BYM Sports News, which has regular updates from him.
If Andreu succeeds he will become the first Spaniard to row across the Atlantic.