And then they swam

And then they swam

As drunk buddies promised to cross the ocean and did so...
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The two know firsthand about the drunken and the sea on their knees. One day James Eder and Ben Stunning swore to cross the ocean and did so, setting a new record.

The origin of the idea

James Eder and Ben Stanning weren't sailors. They spent all their time at St. Andrew's University, where they studied far away on the most exciting subject - literature - and met with friends after class. After graduating in 2004, the British started working. Each of them quietly hated their office, but did not dare to quit.

We could start to fall asleep here, so typical and unremarkable was the life of our heroes, but seven years after graduation, our friends remembered the promise they'd once made.

In their final years of study, the young Ben and James swore an oath to cross the ocean on their oars.

After nostalgia, the friends realized that this was exactly what they needed to do - follow Hemingway's covenant and «fulfill what had been promised on a drunken head».

«We were very unhappy with what we did and how we lived. We were living in a terrible apartment with rats. I worked as a salesman for zero-sales accounting software. James went to law school, but he»hated it," said Ben Stanning.

At first, the idea was just an idea, a pleasant occasion to dream, but then the eyes of future record-breakers caught an article about Jim Shakdar - a rower who crossed the Pacific Ocean in a rowboat. «That winter Sunday night, just when we were supposed to have a power outage, we decided that it was time!»

Plans and preparations

Adventurers had to start saving up money to get on the road. Each of them added £400 a month to their moneybox. When the sum reached £15,000, the friends were able to buy a boat - the rowboat Indian Runner, which crossed the ocean twice with its former owner.

The team was scheduled to leave Australia and reach the island of Mauritius in 120 days, spending about 3.1 million rowing movements to cover 3,100 nautical miles. The plan was to take 300 kg of food, navigation equipment, a water desalter and six books - three per brother.

The plan was carried out and in spring 2011 the people of Great Britain went on a journey that only two pairs of rowers conquered them.

The principal difference between the voyage and the others was the absence of a boat accompanying the boat.

The amateurs went out to the open sea at their own risk, knowing that in case of emergency, help will arrive not earlier than in a couple of days. This fact allowed Stanning and Eder to become record-breakers.

It wasn't that simple.

It's true that they didn't succeed easily. During the 116-day voyage, people were subjected to serious trials more than once, the most important of which was waiting for them at the finish line. As the boat approached Mauritius, a wave overflowed the boat. The boat turned over and the rowers found themselves in the water.

Among the garbage that appeared, the comrades managed to find a flare gun, but the men's fingers went numb and they could not make a volley correctly: James hurt his leg. «The wound was bleeding and Ben had to dive under water to see if there were any predators»nearby," he recalled later.

«There was water everywhere. The waves were beating against the rocks, so we had to swim in the opposite direction. We knew that if we couldn't sail any further, we were finished».

After five hours in the ocean, the 30-year-old Britons noticed a helicopter, but could not see the sailors in the dark of the night. Fortunately, around the same time, James and Ben came across a coral reef where they had to wait for help.

The Coast Guard, who went out in search of the missing rowers, noticed the paddle carried by the wreck and was able to approach Ben and James at close range. Barely saw the boat, the friends shouted «to the rescue» and were finally saved.

«At that moment tears»came out before our eyes," they said.

After the record.

Becoming the first pair of rowers to cross the Indian Ocean without stopping and without the assistance of an auxiliary boat, the seemingly unlucky Britons were able to change their lives.

James Eder left the hated workplace and wrote a book (it's called Rowing after the White Whale). Ben Stanning married an old friend and moved to Paris.

In addition, this year the sailors, whose record is almost forgotten by the press, have become real movie stars. The documentary film And Then We Swam, which tells the story of the extremely courageous decision of two inexperienced clerks, successfully rode on a number of important film screenings and was favorably received by critics.

Note. Before Eder and Stanning, two pairs of rowers, Guy Watts and Andrew Delany, as well as James Thiess and James Faceer Childs, crossed the Indian Ocean from east to west. Later in 2012, the course was conquered by another pair, the Frenchmen Lawrence Grand Clement and Lawrence De Rankur. This pair showed a record time of 85 days, 2 hours and 5 minutes.

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