A Kiwi rower has taken up an eleventh hour offer to join a world record ocean rowing attempt.

Andrew McCowan found out only a fortnight ago the team aiming to make the fastest row across the Atlantic needed another oarsman.

Olympian and rowing champion Rob Hamill told him there was a vacancy on the boat. Though he learned of the vacancy only a fortnight ago, McCowan signed up and was getting ready to leave the country on January 2.

The Gallagher Group team take off from the Canary Islands eight days later, for a 4819km trip to Barbados.


McCowan, who works in a Fonterra lab in Takanini, has never met his teammates.

"I'm going in there blind and they don't know me, so it's a challenge."

Electric fence and hardware company Gallagher is backing the world record bid. The contenders will head across the sea in Titan, an 11m rowing boat made of aircraft standard lightweight carbons, titanium, nylon and aluminium.

Veteran ocean rower Simon Chalk is the captain.

"It's going to be physically stressful and mentally stressful because you won't get as much sleep as you normally would," said McCowan.

He expected food to be mostly dehydrated sachets. In appalling weather, rowers could retreat to a cabin on the boat.

McCowan's days will be spent rowing for two hours, then two hours off - all day, every day.

Sporadic internet and satellite access were the usual method of contact back home.