Conquering the Atlantic
In 1966, two Englishmen tried to row across the Atlantic in vain. Their boat was found days later on a shore, but their bodies were never discovered. And it was this idea of crossing an ocean on human power, is what drove Bhavik towards rowing. “As a sailor, and as a fan of endurance challenges, this appealed to me on several levels,” says Bhavik, who later put the idea to test from Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa to Antigua, with no motor or sail on a voyage of 106 days.
But crossing twhe Atlantic was no easy feat. So, how did he go about preparing himself? “How do you prepare for the unknown? Where do you start? What do you do? Anyone who thinks of taking an endurance challenge finds himself crippled underneath these quintessential qualms,” Bhavik says. To him it was like a bizarre puzzle, and he was the Holmes of this story.
But the endeavour wasn’t about taking risk, it was about risk management, foolproof-ing, backups and fail-over systems. And this is what set him on this adventure. He’s a rower, so that settled our question about his passion for sports or adrenaline, for rowing is one of the toughest, highly exhausting solo sports that you can engage in. But does it make those who partake in it, sailors or athletes? “I consider myself a sailor, endurance sportsman, explorer and adventurer, in that order. Sailing and endurance sports are less about adrenaline and more about understanding your own limits and an appreciation of the power of nature and a curiosity for knowledge and psychology and especially dealing with fear.”
For Bhavik, who is a keen swimmer, also having dabbled in windsurfing, kayaking and deep sea diving — rowing came in as a natural progression. Rowing across an ocean, he excitedly points out, is much more than just rowing. It’s good seamanship, mental and physical endurance, physics, managing the technical aspects of a boat, understand weather systems etc. and still be ready to face your worst nightmare.
Intrigued by his 106 day stint in the middle of nowhere, alone, we asked him about one of the lowest points he faced during this endeavour, where he thought of giving up and abandoning his mission! On day 41, when he had already sailed about 2,000 kms and practically out of helicopter rescue range, he discovered a leak in his 7 metre long boat. Spending the night bailing out water with a mug, Bhavik hit a new low when he couldn’t locate the leak in the boat.
It was then that he faced the trip’s worst endurance test. He was in two minds, thinking about calling it quits, having already informed his friends about his latitudinal coordinated to be on the safer side. The morning after he decided not to give up, somehow managed to find and seal the leak, and sailed forward. All the while, as he points out, he only thought about saving the mission. “In hindsight, I think the obstacles are just a test of how badly we want something, if we are willing to pay the price. And if one gets down to weigh the lows and highs, he realises how the failures, problems and low points make the highs much higher and the victory much sweeter”.
Besides being an adrenaline junkie, Bhavik religiously trained in the gym for close to six hours a day, over a period of three years. This, coupled with rigorous diving and stints at sailing kept him upbeat. The lesser known part of his endeavour? Bhavik had previously tried crossing the Atlantic thrice and failed, before finally making it, on his fourth try. For food during the sail, keeping in mind the space and weight constraints, Bhavik chose to carry dehydrated frozen meals (dried rice, pasta etc.). Being at sea also meant higher calorie consumption (9000 Vs 2500 calories per day for a person on land).
“Mental endurance to cross an ocean is very similar to running a startup — setting goals, staying motivated in the face of adversity, having the mental stamina to go the distance,” he tells us. You see, Bhavik who is a bona fide adrenaline junkie, has trekked across Siberia, from Helsinki to Hong Kong, cycled across Europe from Stockholm to Istanbul across the Alps. When he has time, tries to take the learnings from these experiences back to corporate world. He is an entrepreneur, a start-up funder and founder and principal partner at Development Venture Capital Group, a venture capital fund. Between his story-telling and epic narration of the life-altering experiences we ask him what keeps him connected to endurance sports, he tell us, “The experience of solitude in a vast space is something very unique to a soul, and gives me the answers to most of questions I seek.”