After separately rowing across the Atlantic Ocean, Owen Gray and Jayme Linker decided to team up to row across the Pacific. In June of 2023, they will leave Monterey Harbor, CA, and row 2,800 miles. After persevering through intense weather patterns, they will arrive in Kauai, HI 60 days later. Grueling training, tedious safety checks, and continuous fundraising for their desired charities will characterize Owen and Jayme’s preparation. If everything goes to plan, it will all be worth it. Owen and Jayme will become the first American mixed-pair team to row across the Pacific Ocean.
Meet Owen Gray
Although Owen Gray now calls Reno, NV home, he spent most of his childhood moving around. As an Army brat, he lived in the United States, Ireland, and Germany. Following his high school graduation, Owen followed his family legacy. He joined the military and spent six years in the Navy, stationed in California. After he completed his tenure in the Navy, he got a Certified Public Accountant license. Owen spent the next 25 years as a CPA, eventually becoming a partner at Novogradac & Company LLP.
In the midst of his career, Owen continued to pursue his love for adventure and spending time outdoors. One of his favorite things to do is travel in his Class B RV. He loves camping along some of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the west. Additionally, Owen enjoys attending sporting events and track days at the NorCal Shelby Club.
Whether he’s out exploring or experiencing the thrill of adrenaline, Owen uses his passions to escape the pressures of everyday life. Along the way, Owen found that the best way to manage his stress was competing in endurance events. From Ironmans to endurance bicycle rides and numerous intense open water swims, Owen found a healthy outlet.
He quickly fell in love with open-water swimming and completed 20 different Alcatraz crossings. After a serious bicycle accident in 2016, Owen was given a left shoulder prosthesis and could no longer swim. Despite his frustration, he was determined to keep competing. After reading Roz Savage’s book, Rowing the Atlantic, Owen decided to start rowing. After his retirement in 2018, he began training for his own Atlantic crossing.
Teaming Up with Jayme Linker
In December 2021, Owen entered the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge (TWAC). He began his row from La Gomora in the Canary Islands. Nearly 71 days and 3,000 miles later, Owen arrived in Antigua. Upon arrival, he became the 10th American to solo row across the Atlantic Ocean. Following the TWAC 2021, Owen met a fellow American rower, Jayme Linker, who completed the row in a pairs team.
Jayme Linker is a proud Colorado native who still loves living there today. She grew up on a farm with strong family ties and enjoys still being close to family. Professionally, Jayme works in HR and Payroll, but most of her passions lie outside of work. Despite living in a landlocked state, Jayme’s love for travel and outdoor adventure sports brought her to rowing. With incredible determination, Jayme spent five years training for the TWAC before successfully completing it in early 2022.
Her dedication to completing the TWAC was driven by her long struggle with an eating disorder. “I was dedicated to take my experience to help others by pushing every last boundary I have, to find my breaking points and push past them. Finding one’s limitations and learning to overcome obstacles is where I find my strength and support to be able to help others suffering like I have.”
Their dedication to pushing their limits and testing boundaries encouraged them to take on a new challenge as a team. After rowing across the Atlantic Ocean, the next logical step is to row across the Pacific. Jayme and Owen decided to take on the Pacific Challenge. They’re hoping to become the first USA-born, mixed pairs row team, to row the Mid-Pacific.
Forming Team Aloha Kai
Beginning on June 12, 2023, the inaugural Pacific Challenge will take place. Twenty teams from around the world will launch from the Monterey Harbor in California. Over 2,800 miles later they will arrive in Hanalei Bay in Kauai, Hawaii. Owen and Jayme will be attempting this challenge as team “Aloha Kai”, which means Love of the Sea in Hawaiian. Aloha Kai perfectly fits their love for the ocean and their determination to complete the crossing.
While Owen and Jayme are the ones rowing across the Pacific, Aloha Kai has another important team member. Owen’s wife Marianne takes on the essential support roles for team Aloha Kai. Marianne is in charge of fundraising, trailer transport, and assisting with media and press coverage. During the row, she will be providing imperative wind, current, and weather information. As fewer people have completed the Pacific crossing than the Atlantic, Marianne will have her work cut out for her. Owen and Jayme are confident she will rise to the occasion. Especially with the help of honorary team member Torino, Owen and Marianne’s border collie pup.
The final component in assembling team Aloha Kai was securing a rowboat. When Owen and Jayme came across “Lily”, a Rannoch R25 Ocean Rowboat, they knew she would be a perfect fit. At 21 feet long and 5.5 feet wide, Lily is perfect for team Aloha Kai. She was built specifically for ocean rowing by the worldwide leading ocean rowboat builder. This gives Lily exceptional abilities to handle rough weather. Lily is even designed to self-right if rolled over by heavy seas. Owen and Jayme both competed in similar R25s during the TWAC. This gives them the confidence that they are ready for whatever weather the Pacific Challenge will throw their way.
Gearing Up to Cross the Pacific
After getting their team together and finding the perfect rowboat, the next step was ensuring the boat was well-equipped. Owen and Jayme will stock Lily with food, safety supplies, and several high-tech electronics. While out at sea, team Aloha Kai will rely on these electronics. Between the water maker, satellite communication, lights, VHF radio, autohelm, and more, it’s essential that they have plenty of power.
With solar panels and 2 – 100AH 12V LiFePO4 Battle Born Batteries, team Aloha Kai will be able to power all of their critical electronics. The weight and reliability of the batteries was a major factor in Owen and Jayme’s decision. In such a small boat, having lighter batteries was a must. They also wanted to be sure that no matter what weather or time of day, they could power all of their electronics. Owen and Jayme have this confidence with their Battle Born Batteries.
In addition to getting their gear together, there are a variety of skills, checklists, and trainings that Owen and Jayme have to complete. Atlantic Campaigns, the race organizer of the Pacific Challenge, set a list of mandatory courses for competitors to complete. These included Sea Survival, First Aid, Essential Navigation and Seamanship, Ocean Rowing, and California Boating Safety.
Supplementing the courses is a long list of mandatory safety equipment that must be inspected to ensure it is working properly. Jayme and Owen had to buy new oars, personal locator beacons, and an Emergency Position Indication Radio Beacon (EPIRB). In addition to reprogramming their VHF radio and having their life raft service. Although all of these steps felt tedious, they provide maximum safety to all rowers taking on the Pacific Challenge.
Team Aloha Kai Begins Training and Preparation
The final step in Jayme and Owen’s training and preparation was completing their mandatory 120 training hours in ocean waters. Aloha Kai began training in the fall of 2022 when they completed a 15-hour row on the San Francisco Bay. This was simply a “get to know each other row” as they practiced sleeping and eating on the boat, as well as rowing at night.
Following a successful first training row, they ramped up their next two trainings for a 33-hour row on the San Francisco Bay and a nearly 50-hour row from Redondo Beach to Oceanside California. During these training rows, they gained problem-solving skills and grew in their teamwork abilities. They practiced utilizing their navigation devices and the VHF radio, even deploying their para-anchor. Not only did these rows give them valuable time to practice their rowing skills, but they also exponentially increased Jayme and Owen’s confidence in each other.
Heading into 2023, Jayme and Owen completed a few more 24-hour training rows off the coast of California and officially completed their mandatory training hours. These rows brought rough weather, allowing them to further test their safety equipment and see how their batteries performed under stress. They determined that all their safety equipment was functioning properly and that their Battle Born Batteries were performing flawlessly.
The start of the Pacific Challenge is four months away. Team Aloha Kai has plenty of training under their belt, but there is always more to be done. “Everyone always asks how’s the training coming along. Reality is physical training is just a small amount of the preparation for an ocean crossing. Ensuring your boat & gear are seaworthy is a bigger part of the preparation.”
Rowing for a Greater Cause
Jayme and Owen are looking forward to pushing their limits and accomplishing this incredible feat, while also rowing for a greater cause. Along with the other rowers competing in the Pacific Challenge, Owen and Jayme both picked a charity to raise money for while they row.
Owen picked Okizu, an organization dedicated “to helping all members of families affected by childhood cancer to heal through peer support, respite, mentoring, and recreational programs. After losing his mother to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Owen knew firsthand the devastating impact of cancer. Following time volunteering at a pediatric cancer facility, Owen learned about Okizu and began volunteering as a camp counselor. He fell in love with their mission and the work they were doing as he saw the impact it had and children and families experiencing childhood cancer.
“While it is heartbreaking to see kids and their families deal with childhood cancer, it is also inspiring. The strength that these kids demonstrate in the face of such adversity is amazing – they are true little warriors. I will seek to channel their strength as I face the adversities of the row but these will pale in comparison to what these kids are forced to handle.” Owen raised over $207,000 during the TWAC and is hoping to continue raising money during the Pacific Challenge. “While completing the row was one of my greatest accomplishments, it paled in comparison to the amount of money we raised for Okizu.
Jayme’s battle with an eating disorder led her to create her own charity for Eating Disorder Awareness. She’s hopeful that she can use her experience to ensure others don’t have to suffer the way that she did. Her non-profit is “raising money to help individuals receive care as well as offering education surrounding eating disorders to the public.”
What’s Up Next for Team Aloha Kai?
As they continue their fundraising efforts, Owen and Jayme are continuing to prep for the Pacific Challenge as they head toward the homestretch. Lily will be surveyed and inspected to identify any last-minute adjustments to their safety equipment. Owen and Jayme will also be coordinating the transport of their trailer to and from Kauai. Checking off these boxes will leave final mental and physical preparation leading up to the launch on June 12, 2023.
Owen and Jayme are both looking forward to the start of the Pacific Challenge. They can’t wait to feel the power of the ocean and get to spend uninterrupted time in awe of its magnificence. Be sure to follow along as team Aloha Kai completes their training and heads across the Pacific this summer. You can stay up to date by following them on Instagram, Facebook, and their website.