Bellamy and team do 1,000km for EC children and Christmas dinner

A thrilled Cameron high-fives a group of children at Sakhisizwe who took him through the head-to-foot naming of their body parts in isi Xhosa and English.
A thrilled Cameron high-fives a group of children at Sakhisizwe who took him through the head-to-foot naming of their body parts in isi Xhosa and English.
Image: Adrienne Carlisle

South African ultra-endurance athlete Cameron Bellamy and a top team of world record breakers have chalked up another world first by rowing the more than 1,000km across the notoriously rough and icy Drake Passage.

The so-called #ImpossibleRow in the custom made 25-foot long ocean rowing boat from Cape Horn in South America to the Antarctica was achieved in just 13 days instead of the predicted 21.

Discovery Channel recorded and broadcast the mammoth journey led by former professional triathlete turned explorer Colin O’Brady and career ocean rower and boat captain Fiann Paul. Bellamy and adventurers Andrew Towne, John Petersen and Jamie Douglas-Hamilton made up the rest of the team.

Bellamy uses all his ultra-endurance, record-breaking swims and other feats to raise money for his Ubunya Challenge charity, which supports early childhood and other education projects across Zimbabwe, SA and elsewhere.

This time he aimed to raise about  $30,000 for the similarly named Eastern Cape-based Ubunye Foundation. The foundation supports 16 ECD centres across the Eastern Cape, and any money raised will go towards bringing the internet and tablet learning to its 360 preschool children.

The team have now become the first to cross the Drake Passage using only human power. Dubbed the ‘Impossible Row’, they traversed about 1,300km across the roughest and coldest waters on earth, touching land just in time to celebrate Christmas.

Bellamy recorded on social media that they experienced bone-chilling temperatures on the last few days of their journey. They encountered icebergs and were cheered up by dozens of penguins on their way past the Smith and Low islands.

The icebergs grew larger and more majestic as they entered the Bransfield Strait.

 Named after English explorer Sir Francis Drake, the passage stretches between South America’s Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands and is considered to have the coldest and most treacherous waters on earth.

The team recorded several occasions on which they had to hunker down with their sea anchor out to sit out storms and rough seas. Early one morning, Bellamy — who is famous for his ultra-endurance swimming feats — took a naked plunge in the icy water to freshen up. Sporting only a swimming cap with the South African flag on it and goggles, he leapt into the water and frolicked in the huge waves while his heavily clothed team mates watched in astonishment.

The expedition was documented in real time by Discovery Channel, which followed the rowers in a 120-foot boat.

Ubunye Foundation director Katy Pepper yesterday said they were all in awe of the achievement.

“We watched holding our breath as Cameron and his team rode out storms and rowed for days in that tiny boat. We were wowed as he swam in the icy waters and got cheered on by a passing liner. To think that his efforts were focused on bringing the internet and learning to young children in our area of the Eastern Cape is both humbling and mind boggling. It makes each rand invested in that learning special and unique.”