Four UT students will join an exclusive club in 2016, adding their names to the list of fewer than 50 Americans to have rowed across an ocean.
After Ryan Worth, a UT graduate student in sports psychology, rowed across the Atlantic Ocean in 2011 from Morocco to Barbados with a 15-member international crew, he has yearned to create a team of Tennesseans for a second oceanic expedition.
But Worth isn't the only dreamer.
Worth has since been joined by Matt Guenther and Jennifer Bailey as fellow crew members, who together compose the current Salty Vols crew. Although the Salty Vols' original goal was to participate in the Great Pacific Race of 2014, the team has postponed its journey until 2016 due to unexpected circumstances.
This delay, however, has not stopped them from campaigning and training for the daunting task ahead.
"It's going to be better in the long run," Guenther, a junior in environmental science who rowed in high school, said. "If it is two years away, we will be able to have a more solid team and a solid financial plan."
The Great Pacific Race of 2014 will mark the first oceanic race across the Pacific Ocean, starting from Monterey, Calif., and finishing in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Run by New Ocean Wave, the race is inspired by founder Chris Martin's experiences as an international athlete.
Martin currently shares a Guinness World Record with Mick Dawson for being the first team to row across the North Pacific from Japan to San Francisco in 2009. The trip required Martin to live on the water for nearly 200 days.
"We saw so much more wildlife, and the welcome into California was far beyond what we expected and could have hoped for," Martin said. "The start and finish venues are unparalleled."
The race currently consists of 15 teams, comprised of crews of one, two or four members. Teams represent eight different participating countries including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the Netherlands, Ireland and France.
Team Salty Vols is currently searching for a fourth crew member for the 2016 race.
As this is the first Pacific race, participants may set records by default. Trophies offered by New Ocean Wave include the Fairfax-Cook Trophy for the fastest classic pair, a trophy for the fastest open-class pair, the Pete Bird Trophy for the fastest single, and a trophy for the first four-crew team to complete the route. This trophy will be named after its winner.
"You can't put a number on it, because no one has ever done it," Guenther said. "No one knows what can be done, and no one knows what to expect."
Worth, the Salty Vols' team leader, admitted he fears the psychological toll of an oceanic race after having spent 53 days on the ocean during his 2011 trip.
"Rowing for two hours a day, six different times a day, every single day with only two hours of rest in between is very mentally draining," Worth said.
On a solo trip in 2005, Martin spent 68 days on the Atlantic Ocean as a part of the Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race. The race from California to Hawaii could take anywhere from 30 to 60 days.
"I found that being away from land, I felt a lot safer," Martin said. "The boat floats and the boat takes care of me.
"... I think it just broadened my horizons. It opened up my view of the world and what was possible. It was incredible."
Jennifer Bailey, graduate student in Kinesiology and the third Salty Vols teammate, holds eight years of rowing experience.
"It doesn't really matter what type of boat you're in," Bailey said. "Anytime you're on the water you get a different perspective of the world and you see things that you would miss otherwise.
"I realize it won't be all sunshine and roses, but it'll be new and eye-opening and that's what I'm looking forward to."
During the race, Worth hopes to film a documentary. Both he and Guenther have considered using the trip as a research opportunity.
Although the Great Pacific Race of 2014 is set for early June, the date is subject to change depending on weather conditions. New Ocean Wave will provide a constant live stream throughout the event, with weekly race updates.