Plymouth rower completes indoor challenge to commemorate Mayflower voyage

Mayflower Offshore rower, Craig Chaulk, rowed 3,150 miles to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the historic Mayflower voyage to America


Inspired by the Mayflower pilgrims’ voyage to America 400 years ago, Craig Chaulk recently rowed the same distance – 3,150 miles – on his rowing machine, finishing the journey in 47 days.

With funds going towards his club, the Mayflower Offshore Rowing Club and the RNLI, we caught up with Craig to find out more.

1 – What inspired you to replicate the voyage of the Mayflower pilgrims?

As a rower based in Plymouth, Devon, the Mayflower pilgrims’ voyage is a large part of the history of the city.

I first had the idea to replicate a virtual Atlantic row last summer to coincide with the 2020 Mayflower 400 celebrations.

When Covid-19 struck, resulting in lockdown and the subsequent cancellation of many Mayflower 400 events, I was furloughed and I felt this was the perfect opportunity for a challenge to commemorate the pilgrims’ historic voyage.

The distance of the row was calculated based on starting at the Mayflower Steps in Plymouth, UK to Plymouth Rock at Plymouth, USA – a distance of 3,150 miles (nearly 5,070,000m).

The ship took 66 days to complete this voyage – this was my target. The aim was to row on average 85,000m a day – more than two marathons a day!

The hardest part was when we had the heatwave – I was indoors, rowing in what felt like a sauna

2 – How did the row go?

I started the challenge on Monday 18 May 2020, and on day 25 I passed the halfway point. During the challenge, I thought it would be pretty awesome to try and beat the best distance the Mayflower ship sailed in a single day at 83 miles.

So, on day 34, I managed to row the furthest distance of the challenge, equivalent to 3.21 marathons at 135,423m (84.15 miles). In the final week I was averaging 126,000m per day.

On day 47 – Friday 3 July 2020, I completed the row which I streamed live on Facebook with a Row Along event where people could watch the finish and also row the final 1,000m with me.

3 – What was the hardest part?

As I live in a top floor flat, I had to consider my neighbour below. I had to squeeze 10-11 hours of rowing in a rotation of two hours on, one hour off, beginning at 7am and finishing at 9pm.

I planned to row in four quarters. The first quarter would be the biggest strain on the body whilst adapting to the routine/row; the second quarter would be more of a mental challenge approaching the halfway point. After halfway would be both mentally and physically challenging and the last quarter would be more physical, knowing that I was nearing the end.

The hardest part though was when we had the heatwave – I was indoors, rowing in what felt like a sauna whilst everyone else was enjoying themselves taking advantage of the situation!

Rowing on a rowing machine in a fixed place gets very monotonous, so to pass the time I set myself 15-minute distance targets on a two-hour shift; upbeat positive music worked well too.

4 – How will the money raised help the club?

Mayflower Offshore Rowing Club’s premises is under threat as waterside locations in Plymouth are becoming prime real estate. Just next to the club, planning permission for luxury apartments has been submitted and it’s only a matter of time till the landowners sell the current club site. The club is trying to find suitable alternative locations in which they can access the water without incurring an incredibly high rent.

To support the RNLI and Mayflower Offshore Rowing Club, you can donate here