Even with a partner, rowing a restored boat from Monterey, California to Honolulu, Hawaii sounds like an impossible, crazy goal. However, local resident and gym owner Vicki Otmani and her rowing partner Megan Biging completed their nearly 3,000 mile journey last summer- and set a world record while doing so.
Otmani was a speaker in the Character and Leadership Development Program series at the Glen Mills Schools while she was training for her incredible journey and returned to share her story on July 19th to a highly attentive audience.
The 57 day, 13 hour, and 26 minute journey was fraught with peril virtually from day one of their odyssey, which was a part of the Great Pacific Race. Nine boats began the journey while only five made it to Hawaii.
Otmani and Biging were hoping for long stretches of clear, sunny skies during their trip but instead had to battle four hurricanes, rain, and colder than normal temperatures.
“We normally rowed three hours on, three hours off, 24 hours a day,” Otmani, who rowed collegiately at Oklahoma State, said. “But during one stretch, we rowed for 36 straight hours just to stay ahead of a hurricane.”
With limited provisions and technology, they had limited contact with the rest of the world and rescue boats that could take up to 24 hours to reach them in case of an emergency.
During their arduous trek, they took on 40 foot waves in their 23 foot classic boat. “Sedna” would often capsize but it is designed to quickly right itself. The pair had just 15 days of sunshine during their voyage.
“There were many times when one of us wanted to give up,” Otmani shared. “But we kept encouraging each other and we just kept working.”
A phone call to her husband also encouraged her.
As well as accomplishing an incredible personal goal, Otmani also wanted her journey to raise awareness about the under publicized problem of the amount of pollution in the ocean.
According to the Oklahoma native, there are eight gigantic garbage patches in the world’s oceans, each about half the size of the United States.
“The amount of garbage in the ocean breaks my heart,” Otmani said.
Otmani’s story had a big impact on the students.
“That was very inspiring,” Glen Mills student Jeremiah Porter said. “What an amazing story of accomplishment.”
Photo: Record-breaking rower Vicki Otmani shared her inspirational story with Glen Mills students.