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Huge Seas And Power Crisis Hit Endurance Duo


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Huge seas and power crisis hit endurance duo

Suffering from cuts and bruises, fatigued and mentally fragile, two Sydney kayakers now risk losing contact with their base and their supply of fresh water.

James Castrission, 25, and Justin Jones, 24, have been paddling unaccompanied across the Tasman Sea for over two weeks, in a bid to be the first to kayak 2200 kilometres to New Zealand.

As the constant battering of salt water eats away at their infected skin, recent cloud cover has also caused the pair's solar-powered batteries to lose power, Race Recon executive director Patrick Brothers said.

"The main thing they need power for is the desalination machine that makes fresh water," said Brothers, who speaks with the pair twice a day.

"To lose the electric desalination machine is a massive hit to expedition ... this is the first trigger level of concern.

"Without fresh water they can't hydrate, they can't clean their skin.

"The battery also powers the communication and tracking equipment, which is fundamental to the trip."

The possibility of losing power, combined with "rough days" aboard the kayak, appeared to have left the pair depressed.

"This morning was probably the lowest point I've been at on the trip so far," Castrission said in a recent podcast.

"Mentally I was at about a three out of ten.

The pair had endured seas of five and six metres, forcing them to remain inside the cabin as waves tossed the kayak about.

"It kind of felt like 10 kids jumping on your bed," Castrission said.

"We both suffered a bit of cabin fever in here and felt quite horrible."

A few "rogue waves" had also entered the cabin, soaking clothes and sleeping equipment, Castrission said.

During the emotional lull, the duo had done "clumsy and silly things, were dropping things, making poor decisions, and starting to argue with each other", Mr Brothers said.

"The lack of sleep, hot conditions and the general fatigue of being half way between Australia and New Zealand were probably starting to take their toll."

It took a remarkable chance encounter with a yacht on the Tasman Sea on Saturday to shake the duo from their misery, Brothers said.

After spotting the yacht on the horizon, the duo beckoned it to come closer using their communications equipment, after which the yacht crew and the kayakers chatted and took photos, Mr Brothers said.

"That probably lifted the guys from the doldrums.... turning then from irrational and angry to being really pumped up."

Castrission and Jones have paddled a total of 1110 kilometres since leaving Forster on November 9.

They are paddling at just under 1km/h, and hope to reach Auckland on December 23.


James, top left, and Justin ... facing big seas and a power supply srisis.

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Further update on the paddlers:

Cyclone threatens trans-Tasman paddle

A TROPICAL cyclone may force two Australian kayakers, who are paddling to New Zealand, to abandon their quest.

Wind, mechanical failures and low morale have delayed the duo's planned Christmas arrival in Auckland to New Year's Day.

Justin Jones, 24, and James Castrission, 25, were dealt another blow today with news that a cyclone was forming about 2000km northeast of New Zealand.

An independent support company, Race Recon, which makes contact with the men every evening, said the cyclone was heading towards the kayakers.

“We're a little bit concerned,” Recon head Patrick Brothers said.

“Over the last 24 hours the predicted time has blown out to New Year's, if at all.”

A number of yachting crews in New Zealand have abandoned journeys north and have offered to remain on standby to rescue the kayakers from the looming cyclone.

The Australian and New Zealand maritime safety authorities would be called into action if conditions became extreme, Mr Brothers said.

“We've got to wait and see what happens and not panic with any false alarms,” he said.

Headwinds curtailed the pair's progress to 38km today - their weakest performance since they left the NSW mid-north coast on November 13.

“Today was the worst day of the whole expedition and it wasn't even in the right direction (more south than east),” Mr Brothers said.

The kayakers were just over the mid-way point of their 2200km journey.

Their electric desalination pump has failed, forcing them to use a manual pump which takes valuable time away from their gruelling 15-hour daily paddle regime.

The most recent mechanical malfunction involved the craft's rudder, with water beginning to affect the control cables.

“It looks like the guys are really, really going to earn their stripes,” Mr Brothers said.

The pair report three indicators each night to their support team to gauge their current stamina.

On a scale of one to 10, they both rated their physical fitness today as a seven but their mental toughness and fatigue levels have dropped to as low as three.

“The guys are in the dumps now because of the headwinds,” Mr Brothers said.

“They're pretty worn out.”

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  • 3 weeks later...

Another update on those paddlers:

Kayakers still rocking after rocky night at sea

Two Australians attempting to kayak to New Zealand are back on track after a harrowing night which saw their rudder disabled and wild 30-knot winds pound their craft.

James Castrission and Justin Jones from Forster in NSW reported that the kayak's main line - connecting the craft's rudder to the tiller - wrapped around the rudder, leaving them unable to steer.

However, the line has now untangled and the two adventurers are back on course, albeit still 900 kilometres off the coast of New Zealand.

Within the last hour the duo sent a text message to their Australian-based support team indicating they were safe.

The message said: "All ok, night was rough and stuffy, but all ok."

In a video report posted earlier on the kayaker's website, Jones said: "The amount of strain is just going to be immense - there's a big chance that if the waves get bigger and wind gets worse, the rudder could get damaged and [in the] worst case get ripped out.

"We're sitting here, really nervous, and just trying to see if it makes sense to jump in the water right now, but the issue with that is that the risk of injury is great. The fact that it's dark is not helping at all."

The director of the duo's support team from Race Recon, Patrick Brothers, said the two men rode out the night in their survival suits with their emergency beacons strapped on in case they were thrown into the sea.

"The decision was made, based on probability that it would be extremely dangerous to go into the water, to ride it out and thankfully they are ok," Mr Brothers said.

"I was extremely concerned - the guys are a long way from anywhere, potentially days away from rescue. A helicopter wouldn't be within 700km of them and there's not a lot an aeroplane could do.

"This was exactly the situation that Andrew McAuley was in when he was lost doing the same trip. That's the nature of this crossing and why it is so risky."

Castrission and Jones face ongoing bad weather today with strong winds from the south east and heavy seas.

The two men set off on the 2200-kilometre voyage from Forster in a custom-designed double kayak on November 13.

The friends, who went to school together, hope theirs will be the first successful attempt by kayakers to cross the Tasman Sea after a series of failed bids.

The most tragic bid occurred in February, when 39-year-old Australian Andrew McAuley died.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Further update 27/December 2007

Kayakers battle fatigue and competition

TWO men attempting to become the first Australians to paddle across the Tasman are battling physical and emotional exhaustion, as well as the likelihood a competing craft will steal their glory.

Eight-metre swells continue to swamp their custom-built kayak as Sydneysiders James Castrission, 25, and Justin Jones, 24, paddle towards Auckland in rough conditions.

The pair set out on their 2200km journey on November 13 from Forster, on the NSW mid-north coast.

They reached their halfway point in early December but went around in circles for two weeks in attempts to dodge persistent head winds and a whirlpool of ocean currents.

They are now 540km from Auckland, but their support team estimates the men have paddled an extra 1000km as a result of their unplanned detours.

"They're physically and mentally exhausted, and morale has gone to its lowest point in the journey," support team member Tom Mitchell told AAP.

"Basically, they're sick to death (of trying) to get their arses across to New Zealand."

For the past two days, they have made big advances, paddling more than 200km, and expect strong westerly winds to push them similar distances for another two days.

But strong tail winds have brought big seas that make paddling difficult.

The kayak enters the middle of eight-metre swells, submerges slightly and resurfaces to repeat the challenge.

"And on top of that, they've only been getting one hour of sleep a night because the seas are so rough," Mr Mitchell said.

"They've described it as trying to sleep with 12 kids jumping up and down on the bed."

Their original arrival date of Christmas Eve has been extended repeatedly, but the support team expects the pair to arrive in NZ as early as January 7.

Crossing from the opposite direction, a four-person rowing team of Steven Gates, Andrew Johnson, Kerry Tozer and surf boat champion Sally Macready, set out on November 29 from Hokianga Harbour, north of Auckland.

The conditions that hammered Castrission and Jones favoured the foursome, who reached their halfway mark in just 15 days.

They are now just 370km from Sydney Harbour and are expected to arrive on New Year's Day or the next day.

The larger team has also endured rough conditions and a near-miss with a freighter on Christmas night.

But on Boxing Day, they encountered a pod of dolphins and good conditions.

"The weather was glorious. We finally struck a favourable current and it was great to be on the ocean," Gates said in a statement.

Jones and Castrission are not expected to reach land first, since easterly headwinds are forecast to return on Sunday.

Mr Mitchell said the pair are not bothered that Gates' team will arrive first, especially since they have twice the rowing capacity.

"Everything that's held our boys back has given the other team the advantage to keep paddling hard to make it there before them," Mr Mitchell said.

"And the more people you have, the less prestigious it is."

He said solo kayaker Andrew McAuley would have been the ultimate champion.

He attempted the crossing to New Zealand's Milford Sound in February, but he disappeared after sending out a garbled distress signal only about 50km from his destination.

His partially submerged craft was found drifting in the ocean, but his body was never located.

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