Rower crosses the Atlantic from New York to Ireland in 112 days without knowing how to swim

THE WASHINGTON POST — After 112 days of an almost solitary existence, with only fierce waves for company and the occasional passing whale, Irish adventurer Damian Browne returned to dry land last week, becoming the first person to cross the North Atlantic in a rowing boat, without any support, from New York to Galway, in Irelandaccording to your team.

The feat is all the more remarkable because Browne can’t swim — nor does he plan to learn in the foreseeable future.

After training sessions on New York’s Hudson River in which he dodged transport vessels and circled around the Statue of Liberty, Browne, 42, left Manhattan’s Chelsea Piers in June and traveled more than 5,000 km to Galway, where he lives, in the west of Ireland.

“You really have to know what you’re doing mentally when you’re out at sea,” he said. Washington Post upon returning to earth and being welcomed as a hero. “It feels really good to be back,” he said. “It’s great to be alive.”

In image captured from video, rower Damian Browne approaches Ireland
In image captured from video, rower Damian Browne approaches Ireland

Browne began the journey with his rowing buddy, Fergus Farrell, who, in his own personal accomplishment, has learned to walk again after sustaining a catastrophic injury. The two men were aiming to break the world speed record for crossing the Atlantic with unsupported rowing, a journey performed only about a dozen times, according to their team. But on the 13th day, Farrell became ill and had to be rescued for medical treatment, leaving Browne with a daunting task ahead.

The expedition, from a world record-breaking attempt, then became a grueling test of personal perseverance that pushed Browne to his limits, he said.

“For the physicist, it was incredibly strenuous. It was simply a relentless task, the daily workload was absolutely enormous,” he said. “There were moments of loneliness and euphoria — it was a roller coaster of emotions.”

A former professional rugby player, Browne is in good physical condition and since retiring from the sport has shifted his focus to extreme expeditions. He claims he does it as much for the mental dexterity as the physical challenge.

“My way of approaching extreme adventures and dealing with the stress they bring is to keep a cool head as much as possible,” he explains. “It comes down to controlling the mind and being truly aware of yourself.”

Something complicated when facing giant waves, freezing temperatures and hours on end paddling alone.

While on his custom-built, 6.2-meter-long rowboat, affectionately named “Cushlamachree” (“beloved” in Irish), Browne ate a 10,000-calorie daily diet of dehydrated meals. , had a small desalination device on board, which allowed him to drink clean water, and slept a few hours at night, in a tiny six-foot cabin he said was his “sanctuary,” where he kept his GPS and radio equipment.

But the main focus was the sea: rowing vigorously more than 11 hours a day.

A particularly worrisome moment came on the 24th day, he said, when the moonlight was obscured by clouds, leaving him in absolute darkness, under which he could barely see the tips of his oars. A severe storm hit him about 1,300 kilometers off the coast of New York and caused his boat to capsize three times.

Damian Browne: 112 days on a North Atlantic rowing boat
Damian Browne: 112 days on a North Atlantic rowing boat

“It was terrifying,” Browne recalls, adding that the storm lasted about 19 hours. “It was the longest hours of my life,” he said, who began to fear the next storm that would throw him into the sea. “It is impossible to beat the Atlantic (…) it is impossible to survive”, he said, describing the ocean as a “ravishing opponent”.

Again, he found comfort in mental strength.

“I think focusing on the immediate task helps,” he told the post. “There is no room for stress or anxiety (…) just be there.”

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Upon reuniting with his wife and 13-month-old daughter in Ireland, Browne told post who was looking forward to spending time with his family and enjoying luxuries like being able to sleep in a bed, use the toilet, and eat well.

But his arrival did not go exactly as planned.

As Browne prepared to enter the Galway docks, the current pushed him towards rocks, and he had to be rescued by an emergency crew, who helped him finally reach land – after 2,686 hours at sea and paddling. more than 5 thousand km.

His epic journey, planned over three and a half years, also raises funds for various charitable initiatives, aiding health efforts, homeless relief, and dog rescue and adoption. Browne has raised about $70,000 so far. It also helps people develop self-discipline and face their own challenges in life.

“We want to teach people how to conquer oceans,” he said.

Browne ran ultramarathons in the Sahara Desert; rowed from San Sebastián, in Spain, to Antigua, in the Caribbean; and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. More recently, he tried to climb Mount Everest, but caught Covid-19 and missed the climb window. Next year, he plans to lead a climb in Kyrgyzstan.

What does your family think of this adventurous streak? They “can handle it,” Browne said with a smile. His mother, who is sea-phobic, was more startled by the ocean challenges, he added. “She was happy both times I put my feet on the ground.”

For now, Browne is relieved to be on land, hopes to rest and recover, and has no plans for another maritime adventure “in the near future.” “The crossing is very demanding, but I am very proud of this last one,” he added. / TRANSLATION BY GUILHERME RUSSO

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