STAGING Legendary ocean rower John Fairfax dies - British Rowing

Legendary ocean rower John Fairfax dies

This year more than 60 people have set out to row across the Atlantic Ocean but they weren’t the first. Being the first ever is very rare and John Fairfax was a very special man.

John was born in Italy in 1937, and moved to Argentina with his family when he was young.


At the age of 13, he left home to live in the jungle. John later recalled, “I wanted to go to the Amazon and live like Tarzan, I had a fixation… to be one with nature.”

After many adventurous years spent smuggling, sailing, hunting and travelling the world, in 1966 John happened across an article detailing the successful North Atlantic row of John Ridgeway and Chay Blyth. Realising then that if he didn’t row the Atlantic solo soon then someone else would beat him to it, he set off for London.

He went on to spend 180 days rowing alone over 5,300 miles, eventually arriving in the spot he had set out for, using nothing more than a sextant.

In 1972 John completed his next record-setting row, surviving a shark attack as he and girlfriend Sylvia Cook completed the first crossing of the Pacific Ocean by rowing boat.

Chris Martin pays tribute to record-breaking oarsman John Fairfax in Rowing & Regatta magazine, out 25/26th February.