NewsPositively Hampton Roads


Rowing solo from Virginia Beach to France: North Carolina grandfather attempting to set world record

Posted at 11:15 AM, Apr 25, 2022

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Several world records could be in the making, starting in Virginia Beach.

Peter Harley, originally from South Africa, is preparing to solo row in a boat from the East Coast of the U.S. to France.

He and his daughter, Bonnie Evans, say the trek is 4,000 miles.

"There are a few records that will come but that’s not the motivation at all. The motivation is the physical and mental challenge," Harley stated.

Harley moved to North Carolina from South Africa several years ago to be closer to his daughter and her family.

News 3 got a look at the vessel that Harley bought in 2020. It's not an old-fashioned rowboat! It has a water-tight sleeping cabin and is designed to turn right-side-up after capsizing.

Harley has already stocked the boat with "expedition food" like protein shake mixes, energy bars and oats sealed in vacuum-packed plastic. In fact, he said he's been eating that diet for nine months to get used to it.

The boat also has the capability to convert salt water to drinking water.

As far as the amount of time for the trip, Evans said they believe the worst-case scenario would be 120 days.

"No hesitations whatsoever - absolutely zero. I know what’s coming, and I’m happy to take it on," exclaimed Harley, "and I’m prepared. I’m prepared mentally and physically for it."

Up to 16 hours a day of rowing is what Harley anticipates.

"I would row for probably two hours at a time, then have an hour break. One hour of sleep, then back on another two hours."

Harley will be able to communicate with his daughter through satellite technology.

He arrived in Hampton Roads from his home base in Cary, North Carolina, earlier this month.

Evans said the launch is the most critical part. Harley intends to launch from the Lynnhaven Marina sometime during the first week of May, depending on conditions.

"I need to get the tides right and the supporting winds to get a really good start and a good launch," Harley explained.

The journey is also part of a fundraiser. Harley and his daughter chose three charities to donate to: 5 Gyres, which helps educate about plastic pollution; the Best Friends no-kill animal rescue; and the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.

The route can be viewed on their website, North Atlantic Challenge.

Evans said once her father arrives in France, she will meet him there for a celebration and some relaxation.