Row Hard,
No Excuses

A sixty minute documentary currently in post-production about the only American entry in the world's toughest rowing race, the 2001 Atlantic Rowing Challenge. (No information on whether it ws every completed or not..)

"Many of the men I talked to… felt that there was no middle ground anymore. Either you were this winner on display who just dominated everything and was larger than life… or you were a nobody, a loser." (Susan Faludi, author of Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man)

In the fall of 2001 John Zeigler and Tom Mailhot spent fifty-eight days at sea racing across the Atlantic Ocean in a rowboat. At fifty-one and forty-one they were among the oldest competitors to participate in the Atlantic Rowing Challenge, a three thousand mile race from the Canary Islands to Barbados. They spent three years preparing for the event in order to make their dream of winning possible, but once on the water, their boat and their bodies did not respond as they'd hoped. They suffered through to an eleventh place finish — the envy of those who came in behind them… but were left conflicted about the experience. Row Hard No Excuses is an observational documentary that follows Tom and John's endeavor and asks the questions why row an ocean and why the sense of failure.

Ocean rowing, as a sport, has only been around since the inaugural Atlantic Challenge race in 1997. Before then crossings were strictly Guinness Book of World Record affairs. In fact, fewer people have rowed across the Atlantic than have climbed Mount Everest. Race rules pit two-person teams against each other rowing unassisted with no food drops or navigational aid. Rowers have to contend with sleep deprivation, seasickness, isolation, boredom and cramped living conditions. Even with a steep entry fee and no prize money, the 2001 race drew thirty-six teams from thirteen nations including New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, China, and eight European countries.

An inherently exciting sports and adventure story on the surface, Row Hard No Excuses is more importantly an intimate portrait of two middle-aged American men and a deeper exploration of their personal quest. Although the film plays out on a grand scale, our approach is to maintain emotional intimacy throughout. Drawing from a compelling video diary of their two months at sea, it makes the audience Tom and John's companions and takes them for a ride across the Atlantic. Told with a curious and compassionate point of view, it doesn't shy away from the parts of their journey that are difficult and flawed, but presents this material with sensitivity. John and Tom's struggle to see their crossing as more than a failure speaks volumes about our culture's relationship with achievement, our unforgiving masculine ideal and the challenges of midlife. By incorporating the unique perspective of Tori Murden, the first woman to row solo across an ocean, and by placing John and Tom's story within the diverse context of the other teams… men and women, young and old… Row Hard No Excuses adapts the race into a meditation about shattered expectations and personal growth.

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