When Jacob Pope was seven years old he was diagnosed with hemophilia B, “It took the doctors a while to figure out what was going on but I feel I am lucky, I don’t often have to deal with a bleed, once a month maybe,” he explains.
For someone who lives with a bleeding disorder Pope has grown up to be quite an athlete. In fact, at the age of 19 this University of Georgia (UGA) student and rower has agreed to participate in what the organizers of the Great Pacific Race call “the biggest, baddest, human endurance challenge on the planet.”
The Great Pacific Race, from California to Hawaii, has only been run once in 2014 and the ocean rowing event involved two Coast Guard rescues, including a spectacular helicopter save in a terrible storm, boats being forced to turn back due to sea sickness and a rower leaving California only to accidently end up on a course to Mexico. Five of the 13 boats that entered did not finish the race. To say this race is unpredictable would be an understatement.
Pope met his rowing partner Chris Lee on the rowing team at UGA, and it was Lee who came up with the idea that they should row across the Pacific. “He mentioned it once, and I laughed it off. But it kept coming up, and eventually it just stuck. It felt right. I don’t know how else to explain it,” Pope says.
Pope explains that the plan initially was to row across the Atlantic Ocean. “Originally we were going to row across the Atlantic but the more we looked into it the more horror stories we heard about gear and food getting stuck in customs. We didn’t want to be ready to leave Portugal but have all our food stuck at a border.” So they decided it would be less risky to do the Great Pacific Race from San Francisco to Hawaii.
It should be made clear that this is not taking the easy way out. The distance of the two crossings are comparable and although the Great Pacific Race is officially mapped as 2400 miles ( roughly 3862 kms) but due to factors such as weather, current and veering from the course, most boats will do closer to 3000 miles ( roughly 4828 kms). The distance of the Atlantic rowing race is approximately 2550 miles or roughly 4700 kms).
The Great Pacific Race has historically been finished in 30-80 days depending on the weather and currents and Jacob and Chris are planning to do the crossing in 45 days. The boat that they will take across the ocean is 25-35 feet long, about six feet wide, and has two small cabin spaces, one for food storage and supplies, and the other is a sleeping bunk.
There are no motors or sails permitted so Pope and Lee will have nothing to rely on but their own strength to power their boat which means that a year before the race they are already on an intense training schedule. “From now until about Dec we are going to be training as we would for a marathon. Lots of endurance training. We will then switch to focus on more rowing after we have built up our endurance,” says Pope. He will have to pack enough treatment to bring with him which will take up precious space but Pope is aware of the challenge that he is facing. “I don’t have a choice, I have to pack incredibly carefully and make sure I can bring enough factor with me.”
When asked about how his family is handling Pope’s plan to row thousands of miles in the ocean, he laughs and explains that at first when he told his mother about his plan her response was, “I thought you were going to tell me something worse, like you were going into space.”
It is worth noting that more people have gone into space than have successfully rowed across an ocean.
“My father and I actually had to have a long discussion about this,” says Lee. “ He came to terms with the idea when I had fully explained my reasoning; wherein I described that this journey is something that means more than just a dream – as it has the potential to impact many lives. “
Pope and Lee are racing to raise money for Hemophilia of Georgia’s Camp Wannaklot which is focused on giving children and teens with hemophilia and other inherited bleeding disorders a special and safe place to spend part of their summer in a secure environment. To contribute to their campaign and support the rowers go to http://www.gofundme.com/rowforhemophilia.
Lee summarized how he believes that helping the Camp is a critical element to their success in finishing the race. “…the task will not be easy, but when times are tough, it will be infinitely easier to keep on going knowing a child at Camp Wannaklot will have an extra opportunity or a researcher may come across a great discovery because of our advocacy.”
We will be posting updates on the rowers and the race on Facebook and Twitter.
“We hope to gain not only a fulfillment by quenching our thirst for adventure; but by doing so, we can make a positive difference in the world. Both complement each other as the task will not be easy, but when times are tough, it will be infinitely easier to keep on going knowing a child at Camp Wannaklot will have an extra opportunity or a researcher may come across a great discovery because of our advocacy. – Chris Lee