In December 2000, an invitation hailing from the Atlantic coast caught our attention. It came from a Dane who hoped that the China Water Sports Administration could help find him a Chinese rower with whom he could row cross the Atlantic Ocean in a double-handed rowing race. The Dane wanted to use the race to raise scholarships for Chinese students to study overseas at the United World College in Wales.
The English name of this Dane was Christian Havrehed. He had a splendid sounding Chinese name, 黄思远 “Huang Siyuan” – “Far-thinking Havrehed”. He presented us with a plan that was full of enthusiasm and idealism: “Firstly, it will provide the opportunity for the first Chinese national to row across an ocean. Secondly, China taking part in an international competition like this will attract a lot of international media attention …” He boldly added, “It will be a great project completely based on goodwill. I cannot offer any overseas trips or banquets, but I undertake to meet all race costs and guarantee the proper undertaking of all matters concerning the race. I will also cover the rower’s expenses in connection with travelling to Hong Kong for training…”
His project proposal could move the heart of almost anyone with dreams, including ours. Before this, the China Water Sports Administration had never tried to organize a project with an individual, but this project was based on the love of Sino-foreign cooperation and oceanic exploration and was without a doubt worthy of support. Thus we decided to help him as far as possible with realizing the project, though at the time it seemed more like a dream.
We found Zhang Jian who at the time had already succeeded in swimming across the Bohai Strait and was China’s most famous long-distance swimming champion. Zhang Jian was an outstanding athlete and also Secretary General of the Beijing Ironman Association. He recommended Sun Haibin to us, a student from Beijing Sports University. Sun Haibin had placed third in the individual event at the Asian Ironman Competition. His physical condition and mental state were very suitable for the adventurous activity of crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a rowboat. Sun Haibin and Christian were very well matched and they decided to undertake the project together.
In a way, Christian and Sun Haibin’s story is legendary. Two individuals from different cultural backgrounds spent over 50 days together in the middle of the ocean, day and night, in a space less than three square meters. Furthermore, before undertaking this project the two of them did not know each other and Sun Haibin had virtually no rowing experience. Would they be able to stand the loneliness? Would storms and whales sink or swallow them? All of this was unknown. But as a result of Christian and Sun Haibin’s painstaking preparations and efforts for 56 days out at sea – and to the surprise of many people – they succeeded in rowing across the Atlantic Ocean.
This was a case of perfect cooperation between the culturally different China and the West. The scholarship money raised from the project was all used to support Chinese students to study overseas. It was a highpoint of human endeavor that embodied mankind ideals of pursuing unity, peace, and common development. At the same time, for China’s non-government maritime activities, it was a successful experience of opening up our door and stepping into the world. As a result of having participated in this project, we will now strongly support this type of international maritime cooperation going forward.
We are convinced that readers will cherish this book. That their legendary story has been successively published in English, Chinese and Danish already proves that the ideals of “cooperation, adventure and compassion” engage people across nationalities.
This book will tell you a true story of beauty and hardship. I wish it every success.