Sunday 18 March 2018

Intrepid Sean aims to be our first solo rower across Atlantic

Barry Duggan

AN Irishman's bid to conquer one of the world's largest oceans finally began yesterday.

Sean McGowan (41), from Limerick, yesterday began his mammoth solo bid to row 2,500 nautical miles across the Atlantic Ocean.

The 'Atlantic Rowing Race' began from La Gomera in the Canary Islands after several weather-related delays. Sean hopes to row his vessel, 'Tess', to Antigua in the Caribbean in between 70 to 100 days.

He had originally hoped to be in the mid-Atlantic at this stage, but managed to spend Christmas with his family after a storm delayed this year's 'Atlantic Rowing Race'.

Speaking before his departure, Sean said he was "delighted and anxious" that the race was finally due to begin.

"It is frustrating with the delay but it's just something we have to contend with. I have been training over the last few weeks, but you want to be out there at sea," he said.

"The plan is to get as far south as possible as there is another big storm coming in 10 to 14 days," he said.

After overcoming a bout of food-poisoning at the turn of the new year, Sean spent his last few hours on dry land writing letters to family and friends for fear "should anything happen".

"I just wish that I was better able to use the English language as it is impossible for me to convey exactly what I want... My hope is that the notes will never be read," he said.

The Irishman is one of six participants who are singlehandedly attempting to make the Atlantic crossing over three months. He will be at the mercy of the high seas in 'Tess'.

His craft is 24-feet-long and six-feet-wide at the widest point. Two cabins are located at the bow and stern.

Two solar panels will power batteries for a desalination unit which will provide the rower with fresh water. The boat is also equipped with a VHF radio, two satellite phones and a radar system to alert other craft of his position in the sea.

Sean has to prepare for all eventualities, including sharks.

"I have two six-inch daggers on board and an axe, but you need them for cutting and maintenance of the boat anyway. They are within reach at all times. It's not something you want to think about, but preparation is key," he said.

No other Irish person has ever rowed solo across an ocean before. Weighing 13-and-a-half stone, Sean expects to be just over 11 stone when he completes the voyage.


"I'm in a bit of trouble really. I was 14-and-a-half stone, but lost a bit over the last few weeks. I got to spend Christmas with my family and have the turkey and ham," he said.

His wife Lorraine and four children Rachel, Daniel, Patrick and Chloe will be kept updated on Sean's progress via satellite phone.

After the first night at sea, he does not expect to see any of the other rowers during the race.

As part of his adventure, Sean is hoping to raise €80,000 for a charity set up in Limerick, but which aims to build a nutrition centre for families in South Africa -- the Soweto Connection. He is appealing for as much support as possible. An estimated €6,000 has been raised to date.

Wife Lorraine said yesterday was a very emotional day for her family.

"We wish him all the best and are thinking about him all the time. Hopefully, he will receive as much support as possible," she said.

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