When New Zealand weather guru Bob McDavitt, gives the word sometime in March or April, kiwi adventurer Scott Donaldson will set off on a remarkable journey, where he will attempt to become the first person to successfully Kayak from Australia to New Zealand, again.
Donaldson, 47, is no stranger to this remarkable challenge, having attempted it in 2014 and came agonisingly close to completing the trip after 84 days at sea. After paddling half the Tasman with an unrepairable rudder and sitting in a once in 40-year storm whilst looking at Mount Taranaki 80km off the coast of New Zealand, Donaldson’s protocol dictated it was unsafe to continue and he aborted the attempt.
This time, Donaldson’s attempt will again depart Coffs Harbour on the New South Wales coast and again aims to make landfall on the Taranaki Coast – a distance of 2200 kilometres although he will likely paddle 3000 kilometres.
“This time around it’s about that last 80 kilometres that didn’t get done last time, it’s about finishing the job off,” says Donaldson.
“There is still a lot of water to cover before we get to that point, but it’s about the challenge. No one has done it solo by Kayak before.”
Scott is a former athlete of various talents in multisport, triathlon, cross country, adventure racing etc. including representing New Zealand in several including the Commonwealth games in triathlon.
For 12 years, he owned a coaching business that centred on swimming from learners to elite. That expanded to various sports, particularly ultra- endurance and “outside the box” events.
From there Scott decided it was too much talking and not enough ‘doing’... The Tasman challenge evolved.
“I’ve coached people to do various crazy things such as the Cook Strait swim and ultradistance 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 from the worst type through to my last attempt which got very close.”
“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 on top of that is make sure my body doesn’t break down which is the tough part both physically and mechanically such as skin integrity.”
With a charitable aspect to his mission, being an asthmatic, Donaldson has linked with the 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 during his attempt 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 try hook into a favourable current.”
Though Donaldson will be alone communication is by satellite phone with his shore team, with text messages exchanged from weatherman McDavitt and daily check-ins with his team leader Nigel Escott at base.
With design improvements made to his boat from the original craft, Donaldson’s new vessel has a length of 6.3m and 0.76m wide, is half the weight and has a bigger cabin for extra comfort and shelter, it also has more room to store food, water and provisions for the attempt.
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.
“Last time took 84 days, but that was half the Tasman without a rudder, so I expect to be a little quicker than that. Though, you can’t afford to ‘expect’ anything in the Tasman, as the weather is in control of what you do and how much progress you make.”
Follow Scott Donaldson’s progress via the website http://tasmankayak.com/