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Amazon rowers on the last stretch

11 October 2013

The article at a glance

The Brazilian coast and the end of an epic adventure are in sight for Amazon rowers Mark de Rond and Anton Wright …

The Brazilian coast and the end of an epic adventure are in sight for Amazon rowers Mark de Rond and Anton Wright

Mark and Anton are on the final stretch of a 2,077 mile row that began four weeks ago in Peru, when the pair, along with Peruvian conservationist Murilo Reis, stepped into a leaky boat and began to row. They hope to step off their tiny craft for the last time on Sunday 13 October.

As every stroke carries them nearer the finish in Macapa, northern Brazil, Mark and Anton are already beginning to digest their amazing experience and how it may influence the rest of their lives.

Mark, an academic and researcher in organisational behaviour at Cambridge Judge Business School, views himself as a ‘carnal sociologist’ – using his own mind and body as a one-man laboratory to test out theories in extreme or unusual situations and bring what he learns back into the classroom.

Past ‘live’ experiments include working with stand-up comedians and doing a stint with the British military in Afghanistan. Each time he has used his experiences to provide his students with real-world insight into how teams and individuals react to difficult situations.

Anton is Chief Rowing Coach at Clare College, Cambridge and an experienced adventure challenge oarsman with the Great River Amazon Raft Race, a row across the Irish Sea and an Atlantic sailing crossing under his belt.

Along with Mark’s research goals, the duo also took on the Amazon to raise funds for the Leonard Cheshire Disability charity and to tackle the Guinness World Record for long-distance rowing unaided. They will know in a few days if they have officially done it.

Challenges along the way included negotiating Pirate Alley (the section of the river notorious for hostage taking) and battling through a massive three-hour storm that destroyed the rudder and carried off their bucket-toilet. Third man Murilo departed halfway through after setting Anton and Mark on the right course both navigationally and using his language skills to liaise with locals and the Brazilian navy.

Speaking as his Amazon adventure draws to a close, Mark said:

It’s been tough and we’re really looking forward to finishing. You learn a lot about yourself and a lot that you can’t learn from just observing others. That can be hard but you experience the subtleties more powerfully if you go through something like this yourself.”

Director of Cambridge Judge Business School Professor Christoph Loch said the School was very proud of their daredevil academic:

We’re delighted and relieved that Mark and Anton have made it safely to the end and are looking forward to welcoming them home. One of our guiding principles as a business school is to tackle real world challenges and to do so in a collaborative fashion. We’re also a community that encourages people to pursue their dreams, which is why we have supported Mark every step of the way. Mark wanted to go beyond watching other people as part of ethnography and put himself into a team under challenging circumstances and that is what he has done! It will be fascinating to see what insights he brings back into our classrooms to share with the business leaders of the future.”

The School has sent out a ‘pamper package’ to Mark and Anton. Nathalie Walker, External Affairs Director said: “It may well be the toughest thing either Mark or Anton will ever do physically, so we wanted to make sure they had some treats waiting at the end!”

The pair kept a blog of their progress, sharing honestly with the world how they were feeling at every stage and winning fans around the world.

Amazon Row factfile

  • Daily distance – about 100km
  • Daily rowing – 24/7; 2 hrs on, 2 hrs off
  • Entire route – 2,077 miles of navigable river
  • Days of rowing – 31 (if finish on 13 October)
  • Boat weight – over 1 tonne
  • Holes in the boat – 2

This article was published on

11 October 2013.