The ORS Int. is the official adjudicator of ocean rowing records for Guinness World Records

 


Letters to Jim Shekhdar

1. from Geoff Allum

2. from Judy Bill (Peter Bird's sister)

3. from Joan Bird (Peter Bird's mother)


Routes of Pacific E-W crossings 

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Toulouse, France

Jim,

I have just bought and read a copy of your book about your recent Pacific voyage. Although the voyage itself was a truly great achievement, and for that my sincere congratulations, I was upset by your principal claim to be "The first person to row across the Pacific single-handed".

PETER BIRD was one of the great friends of my life and on his behalf , and for his son Louis, who might one day come across your book, I feel I must set the record straight. The book is at best misleading and at times simply dishonest.

On page 2 you write: ' I wanted to do something nobody had done before, effectively to walk on virgin snow'. This is, of course, nonsense. You well know, although you conveniently leave it out of your book, that Peter Bird had covered every mile of your route 20 years ago when he rowed the longest distance, East to West, from San Francisco to the Great Barrier Reef in 1982-83. The award-winning film "The Longest Row" is a great tribute to Peter's 294 day voyage. Your book only refers to Peter's failure to row the rougher West-East route across the Northern Pacific.

The Guinness Book of Records and their archivist, Nobby Clarke,

credit Peter with the first Pacific solo row, as do the Ocean Rowing Society and the rest of us, who belong to what you rightly describe as

the 'brotherhood of ocean rowers', including Peter's principal rival

Gerard d'Aboville, whose wonderful voyage you dismiss in less than a sentence, he deserves better.

Initially your claim to have been the first person to have rowed solo and unsupported seems fair enough, if a little pedantic, but your prompt dropping of the word 'unsupported' from your claim is a little sneaky. You can't negate a voyage on the basis that they were re-supplied because, using that definition, you could disqualify Ridgway and Blyth and John Fairfax, which is clearly ridiculous. 

You yourself had outside assistance in the form of no less than

six G.P.S. navigation systems, giving you push-button positioning accurate to a few metres. Had Peter had this equipment as he approached Australia he may well have been able to negotiate the Great Barrier Reef. His navigation through the islands and reefs of the South Pacific, with a sextant, was wonderful. 

You were also able to get technical help when your water-maker broke via your satellite telephone. If that is not outside assistance I don't know what is.

You go on to sky that no-one had ever completed the long route across the South Pacific from continent to continent, no doubt an attempt to scupper Peter's claim because he reached the Great Barrier Reef, some 35 miles 'short' of the continent. But then you landed on North Stradbroke Island, also not truly the continent.

Perhaps, when you are dead, some nit-picking egomaniac will row from mainland America, across the Pacific and past North Stradbroke Island to the actual Australian continent and claim another solo 'first'. Your daughters would, no doubt, be very distressed, about as distressed as I imagine 10-year old Lois Bird will be when he comes across your book.

Because there are very few books about ocean rowing the ones that have been written tend to be used as works of reference. Peter Bird was a brave and decent man and I would not want anyone to read your book without attempting to set the record straight. For this reason I have sent a copy of this letter to Kenneth Crutchlow and asked him to place on the ORS web-site.

On the last page of your book you claim to not want to appear boastful and then, once again, boast about a 'Solo First'. It was not. It was a 'Solo Third'.

Your claims and your deception do not credit to the 'brotherhood of ocean rowers' or your great voyage. And great it was. Being the third person to row solo across the Pacific is a truly magnificent achievement. It's a shame that this does not seem to be enough for you and that you feel you have to hijack what turned out to be Peter Bird's life's work.

Peter, we haven't forgotten. 

Yours
Geoff Allum


Pincot Cottage Pincot Lane, Painswick, Glos GL6 7QP
01452 812266
4 December 2001

To Ken Crutchlow The Ocean Rowing Society

When I heard Jim Shekhdar claiming on the Libby Purves programme to be the first man to row the Pacific Ocean I was very surprised as in 199? I had heard Libby interview my brother Peter Bird on the same programme and she referred to his solo row across the Pacific from San Francisco to Australia, which had taken place in 1982-83 . At the time of the interview, he had just made his fourth attempt to row the Pacific from West to East. 

Peter was first and foremost an adventurer. He was also a very modest man and would never have blown his own trumpet. Fellow rowers are always quick to praise him both as a rower and a friend. It is all the more galling therefore to hear an obviously brave man like Jim S, also a fellow rower, trying to diminish Peter's achievement by claiming it for himself! I suggest he takes a look at Peter's film "The Longest Row" and maybe then he will feel bound to correct this claim. 

I have heard that Jim is using the word 'unsupported' in his claim. Peter was re-supplied with food (I think he was alone at sea in a rowing boat longer than anyone) so that he could continue . I suppose you could claim that anyone with a satellite telephone was being supported! It is splitting hairs. The truth is that Peter was the first person to row the Pacific Ocean alone in a rowing boat after John Fairfax and Sylvia Cook had rowed it together. 

Peter was lost at sea in June 1996 whilst making his fifth and final West-East attempt. He is sadly no longer here any more to defend himself so I feel that his friends and family will make sure they do it for him.

Judy Bill


Having met Jim last year after his row I am surprised and disappointed that on the back cover of his book it says “During an action-packed 274 days at sea Jim Shekhdar became the first person to row across the Pacific single – handed”.
Peter was the first to row the Pacific solo, Gerard - the second and Jim - the 3rd, Peter is not here to defend himself he was lost at sea rowing the Pacific from Russia Far East in June 1996, for the sake of accuracy, Peters 10-year old son Louis, as well as our whole family I want Peter to be remembered for being the first to row the Pacific Ocean solo. 

Joan Bird


••• John Fairfax & Sylvia Cook    ••• Peter Bird   ••• Curtis & Kathleen Saville   ••• Mick Bird   ••• Jim Shekhdar


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