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Barbados ‘oar’ bust!

Barbados ‘oar’ bust!
Barbados ‘oar’ bust!
Sarah Kessans, above, will team up with Emily Kohl to race across the Atlantic Ocean next year. The 21-year-old trains daily at the Harrison County YMCA in Corydon. (Photo by Alan Stewart)

While not quite on the epic scale of Columbus’ trailblazing trip across the ocean blue, two Hoosier women are preparing to embark on their own grand ‘ and dangerous ‘ voyage across the Atlantic.
Sarah Kessans and Emily Kohl, teammates on the Purdue Varsity Crew Team, plan to become the youngest American women to row an ocean and to compete in the Atlantic Rowing Race.
Their team is the only entry from the United States and one of only three all-female teams in the race.
A total of 144 people have completed the three past races, and of those, only six were women.
The trip is expected to take approximately 60 days, but Kessans-Kohl dynamic duo is gunning for 50 days, which would set a new record.
How unique is the ocean race? More people have reached the summit of Mt. Everest than have rowed an ocean.
Kessans grew up in Salem, graduated from Eastern (Pekin) High School and lives in Floyds Knobs. She is training daily at the new YMCA of Harrison County in Corydon. As of Monday, Kohl was in Chicago, where she lives, trying to raise some of the $100,000 necessary to cover all their expenses.
So what would drive Kessans, 21, and Kohl, 22, to not only test their physical limits, but to put their lives in danger?
‘Rowing is a passion for us. It’s the adventure of a lifetime and a once-in-a-lifetime experience,’ Kessans said. ‘We love non-stop physical activity and the adrenaline rush that comes when you finish a race. There’s just nothing like the satisfaction of finishing a race and reaching your goal.’
Before anyone starts to question their mental capacity, keep in mind that Kessans will be a senior at Purdue, where she’s a majoring in plant biology and preparing for a career in plant research (finding vaccines in them). Kohl has already graduated from Purdue with a degree in history. She’s got a job lined up at the University of Vermont as coach of the novice women’s crew team.
Both Kessans and Kohl received the Kenneth M. Butler Award for Most Valuable Oarswoman (Kohl in 2003, Kessans in 2004) at Purdue.
‘She’s as crazy as I am,’ Kessans said of Kohl. ‘I was in Dublin (Ireland) last year on a research internship and found out about the race and brought the idea to the crew team. Everyone passed on it but her.
‘We talked about it, and the more we talked, the more we thought that this could be a possibility.’
Kessans has already invested $10,000 of her own money in the venture. The team is actively pursuing other sponsorships, too, including one where folks can ‘sponsor a mile’ for $30.
They’ll launch from La Gomera in the Canary Islands and row their way 2,900 nautical miles to Barbados in the West Indies. The route is the one Columbus took in 1492.
Each team will row in a Woodvale Pair, an ocean-rowing vessel designed for the Atlantic Rowing Race. All boats in the Race will be similar, constructed from a kit of 27 pieces of laser-cut marine plywood.
The self-righting boat is 24 feet long and six feet wide, with a six-foot-long cabin in the stern, two rowing positions, and a storage compartment in the bow. It weighs about 16,000 lbs.
Comparatively, the sleek sculls that Kessans and Kohl race are two feet wide, 60 feet long, and tip the scales at 200 lbs.
Due do delivery snafus with the kit, the craft Kessans and Kohl will be racing is one purchased from American ocean rowers John Zeigler and Tom Mailhot. They built their boat, American Star, for the 2001 race and finished 11th in a fleet of 36 teams.
‘It won’t really be our ‘baby,’ like we had hoped. We were really looking forward to building a boat ourselves. In a way, it’s a positive thing that we purchased American Star, though, because it gives us more time to train and more time to raise money,’ Kessans said.
Mark Shireman of James Shireman Inc. in Corydon was the first to sign on as a corporate sponsor. YMCA CEO Catherine Turcotte has also been providing leads for other sources of funds.
‘She’s been incredible in supporting us,’ Kessans added.
Each team must be completely self-sufficient throughout the entire race, mandating that the rowers take with them everything they need for a possible 75-day journey. Food will be mainly freeze-dried meals, with energy bars and dried fruit as snacks. Each rower will need at least 5,000 calories a day due to the extreme physical stress they will endure. Water will be desalinated through a reverse-osmosis water maker, though 150 liters of fresh water will double as ballast and emergency rations.
Kessans and Kohl will trade off every two hours: as one rows, the other sleeps and vice versa. The only exception is at the start of the race, when prevailing winds and ocean current require that both (wo)man the oars.
The obvious question must be asked: what about the bathroom?
‘Bucket and chuck it,’ Kessans said. ‘The red one is the bathroom, and the blue one is for cooking, and you don’t get them mixed up!’
The duo will do a PR event this weekend in Indianapolis at the Eagle Creek Reservoir. Later this month, they’ll speak to the Corydon Rotary Club here.
The Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race 2005, starting on Oct. 2, will be the fourth of its kind. Previous races were held in 1997, 2001, and 2003.
The brainchild of Sir Chay Blyth, a British adventurer who was one of the first to row the Atlantic, these races have given more than 100 people the chance to prove themselves against the challenges of rowing across the Atlantic.