Interview - Tasman Kayak Scott Donaldson

Sportzhub interviewed Kiwi expedition kayaker Scott Donaldson before leaving on his second attempt to be the first to cross the Tasman solo, Australia to New Zealand.
Photos Supplied
In 2014 Donaldson's attempt got him within sight of Mt Taranaki, however he had to call an end to his attempt, battered by days of stormy conditions, marking the end of his 84 day journey.  In that time he had paddled half the Tasman with an unrepairable rudder, driven in the wrong direction by currents & wind, plus sat out a once in 40 year storm.

With a wealth of knowledge & experience behind him, the Kiwi set to work reviewing and refining every aspect of his attempt over the last 2 plus years.

Yesterday the 48 years old set off from Coffs Harbour Australia in favorable weather on a journey expected to travel over 2200km and take him to Taranaki.  How long is Donaldson planning the crossing to take? Less than last time he's expecting, however the weather and currents will influence that the time on the water.
Before Scott set off from Australia he sat down for a few minutes and shared his thoughts on a few questions on the Tasman cross and more:

What do you consider your best sport result and the event you enjoyed most?    
The list is long and mostly last century. Most people relate me to the demo Tri at Auckland Commonwealth Games but it's not a highlight for me. Running and biking around the mountains in Italy is a highlight.

You battled through a storm for days within sight of  Mt Taranaki last time. How was it to finally make the decision and the feeling when the rescue heli lifted you off the kayak?  
The decision was straight forward - no comms, no power, overnight, safety gear shot and out of range for pickup the next day.  A no brainer on the risk profile and we would make the same decision again.
I only let the feelings roll once I left the boat. No finish line but definitely got the journey!
What was the biggest things you learnt from your 2014 crossing?
In life just the reinforcement that pushing your limits is the best reward.

How will the 2018 differ?
Every detail has been reviewed and improved where possible.

When will you be leaving?
Who knows with this weather. When ever Bob McDavitt (weather Guru)  says GO.

Is the plan from Coffs Harbour 2000km to New Plymouth?
Yes. I had done 3000km when I finished last time. But the currents and weather are fickle so where ever is hard to know.

What's the motivation of a second go?
Motivation is not an issue for me at all. I relished every moment in the last trip.
First attempted the kayak if found ar Putt farm in Taranaki
You have a new boat, explain how the design & construction has changed?
Naked the old boat was 150+kg now the new carbon fibre boat is 70-kg. Every compartment, ballast control and latch has been improved.
What paddles do you use?
Last time I used a small carbon wing paddle. I have 3 sets. This time I am taking 3 different types, a parallel, tear drop and twisted teardrop. This is so I can vary the stress slightly on different muscle groups.

How do you protect your body against to elements & salt? 
That is by far the hardest part of the trip, skin integrity. In the colder conditions Sharkskin chillproof does a great job of looking after my arse and skin.

How long do you expect the kayak to take?
How windy will it be? 84 days last time and half of that was without a rudder which even I consider slightly nuts. So faster than that.

Are you taking more supplies as you ran out last time?
Yes  freeze dry dehydrated food that is ideal for this type of journey. More nutrition, more power, more redundancy.  But it's the sea and something will certainly go wrong that's not predicted.
Is there a backup to your water desalination unit for fresh water?
No it runs on solar power and I can service it, although that is an art form in a rough sea! The backup is manual pumping 2hrs per day in a confined space. The ballast can hold over 40 litres.

Strategy for coping with tough times?
If you don't like tough you are playing the wrong game!  There is no tough, it's what I am out there for. Paddling is therapy for anything.

What electronics do you take?  Music?
Took some last time but didn't use it. Constantly busy looking after gear, me and calculating progress.

Do you have a rewards program for progress or treats on the boat?
Yes a few sugar treats but not many. I don't need to be rewarded. Food is strictly fuel.

What level of training was required?
Similar to Ironman but not enough due to time.  It helps that I have a lifetime of endurance training.

Any comments on any other previous rowing or kayak crossing attempts?
I did some homework on others initially but nothing is as relevant as our previous crossing & relevant experience.

Part of the appeal for me was the uncharted territory. In Ironman or racing you can get off your horse anytime.

This invites a different level of sticking to your trained concepts.
What's the financial & personal cost?
Huge! Affco got us started but there is still space on the boat for more sponsors!

Special Thanks to Scotts Sponsors
Affco Major partner
Day Two cockpit skirt and cover
Auckland Izuzu transport
GVI logistics
ANL shipping
ENL Feruno  chart plotter and VHF
Coppins sea anchor
Vetus Maxwell hatches
Sharkskin clothing
Pinnacle marine supporters
Swift roofing supporters
RNZYS supporters

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