Young dairy farmer member of fastest Irish team to cross the Atlantic in gruelling ocean race

TWAC 2017
TWAC 2017

Sarah Slater

Braving Storm Eleanor and eating dried food on Christmas Day was the reality for one young Irish dairy farmer who was a member of a team of rowers who recently became the fastest Irish team to cross the Atlantic.

Pat O’ Connor, who juggles his full-time job as a doctor at Cork University Hospital with part-time farming in his native Castletownroche, Co Cork, crossed the finish line of the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge along with his three friends in a record time of 32 days, 22 hours and four minutes, smashing the world record of 35 days.

The former Feirme Factor winner told FarmIreland that the adventure was a world away from his regular farming routine, with the team enduring near-death experiences and deadly Atlantic storm conditions on a daily basis.

“One of the most valuable lessons learned from this trip, was the power of the ocean. I was told that there are two parts to sea sickness- thinking you are going to die followed by wanting to die. Unfortunately I experienced both in the first seven days,” he said.

“The scariest part of the trip was finding Tommy and myself in the water in the pitch dark from a partial capsize of the boat we named Saoirse and being saved only by the harnesses we were wearing and thankfully our fast reaction times which flabbergasted us both.”

The young farmer said that he was grateful to the support of the farming community in North Cork and added that his family jokingly messaged him during the race to hurry home in time for calving season.

Pat O' Connor during the Talisker Whiskey Race.
Pat O' Connor during the Talisker Whiskey Race.

“Knowing how many people were backing us at home, was a huge help. I was sent a message from my two brothers Kevin and David and sister Annemarie, to hurry in from the row for the calving season which starts soon, so I have to get my priorities right. I am really looking forward to getting back to the farm to be honest,” he said.

The team which also consisted of Thomas Browne, Patrick O’Connor, Eoin O’Farrell, and Seán Underwood raised €22,000 for Cork University Hospital and Pieta House .

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The quartet, who are nicknamed ‘Relentless’, managed to finish sixth overall in the 3,000 mile race and left the Spanish port of La Gomera on December 14 before arriving in the Caribbeans on January 16..

Having cycled from Malin Head in Donegal to Mizen Head in Cork in 2012, Pat is no stranger to taking on a challenge but explained that for now he is happy to continue his work as a part-time farmer and doctor before beginning any more gruelling tasks.

“I’m not sure I will do another row like this again but certainly there will be more challenges to come, but they may not be sporting ones though. I actually have missed doing the few hours work on the farm every early morning before I go into work at the hospital.”

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