Solo Tasman rower
When weatherman Bob McDavitt gives the word sometime in April 2018, Kiwi adventurer Scott Donaldson will set off on a second attempt to become the first person to successfully kayak from Australia to New Zealand.
Donaldson, 47, attempted the crossing in 2014 and came agonisingly close to completing it after 84 days at sea. After paddling half the Tasman with an unrepairable rudder and sitting in a once-in40-year storm – while looking at Mount Taranaki 80km away – he aborted the attempt.
“This time around it’s about finishing the job,” he says. “It’s about the challenge. No one has done it solo by kayak before.”
A former multisport athlete (triathlon, cross country, adventure racing), Donaldson has represented New Zealand in several disciplines, including triathlon in the Commonwealth Games.
For 12 years, he owned a coaching business that centred on swimming from learners to elite.
“I’ve coached people to do various crazy things such as the Cook Strait swim and ultra-distance running and cycling. It’s time to put those coaching theories to an extreme test.
“This kayak attempt was fairly obvious to me as I’ve got the skill set to do it. There have been 15 attempts in the past, which have all finished in various forms of failure. It’s a bit like training for an ironman – once you go over the eight hours of exertion you’re into serious endurance range, so the only thing I have to do is make sure my body doesn’t break down.”
There is also a charitable aspect to his mission: as an asthmatic, Donaldson has linked with Asthma New Zealand to raise awareness of the condition.
“I have had asthma since childhood – and now my own son has it as well. I am living proof of what you can achieve. Actually, the sea air, without pollen, is pretty good. I will have no issues out there!”
Once he sets off, Donaldson’s biggest hurdle will be Mother Nature. “The tricky part of the Tasman is the weather. You generally get two days of good progress followed by two to four days of the Tasman trying to push you back.”
If weather conditions are favourable, Donaldson aims to paddle for about 16 hours a day.
“You just waste energy if you’re paddling into wind of more than 20 knots. So the aim is to deploy the sea anchor, slow down the rate of drift and hopefully hook into a favourable current.”
With design improvements made to his boat from the original craft, Donaldson’s new vessel has a length of 6.3m and is 0.76m wide. It’s half the weight and has a bigger cabin for extra comfort and shelter, with more room to store food, water and provisions for the crossing.
During the attempt, Donaldson will initially burn roughly 11,000 calories per day, but his body will become far more efficient at around 6,000 calories. He will get his nutrition via a mixture of protein shakes and Radix dehydrated food. Drinking water is from a small desalinator – a device that makes clean drinking water from seawater.