Tuesday 25 September 2018

'I was fast asleep and the first thing I knew I was catapulted into the side of the cabin. There was a lot of blood'

Former Leinster and Connacht second row Damian Browne has opened up on his experiences rowing solo across the Atlantic Ocean - including the shocking moment where he capsized while asleep.

Browne traversed 4,800KM from the Canary Islands to Antigua, spending 63 days at sea on his own.

Speaking on The Left Wing podcast, Independent.ie's rugby podcast with Laya Healthcare, Browne told Will Slattery and Luke Fitzgerald everything about the challenge, from the intense training needed to prepare himself to how he braved the elements for nine weeks.

It was ultimately an extremely rewarding experience for Browne, but it wasn't without its obstacles. Two weeks into the row, Browne was given the mother and father of all wake up calls after smashing his face against the side of the boat after it capsized.

Thankfully, the boat is designed to flip back over but Browne was still left reeling from the unexpected capsizing.

"It was about seven in the morning on Day 14 and I had two capsizes in the same day," Browne said.

"I was fast asleep and the first thing I knew was when I was catapulted head first into the side of the cabin. I got three small cuts but there was a lot of blood. A lot of disorientation. I just woke up when I hit the cabin. It is pandemonium and you are trying to digest what happened. I just had to stop the blood and then went out on the deck. Thankfully all my gear was in place.

"It was just about clearing the water off the deck and getting everything back in place. The life raft was almost in the water. It was a pretty crazy morning."

Many people were taken aback when Browne posted a video of himself after the incident on social media, with the former lock explaining that he caused some family members further distress after they initially worried about him when he set out on his journey.

"I think my mother was worried about it from the minute I told her I was doing it to the minute I stepped on land in Antigua," Browne laughed.

"I probably wasn't doing anyone any favours by sending videos home of my head cut. Everyone was pretty worried. As I said in the video, you probably couldn't have had a better person to be in that situation. I was just trying to reassure people. I felt the harder the journey became, the more I relished it. When everything is against you, that is when you see what you're made of."

Amazingly, the shock of capsizing wasn't even Browne's worst day at sea. The first 24 hours saw a litany of things go against the former second row after he tried to start the row all guns blazing.

"Day One was an absolute nightmare," he said.

"It was the hardest day of the whole lot. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. I made a mistake in my preparation because I had too much time from the end of my training to when I started the race. I had almost de-trained and then I started with a bang and plough through the feel but then everything went wrong.

"My body started to shut down. Every major muscle group in my lower body started to severely cramp like I've never experienced. Then all the callouses on my hands tore off, my heels blistered and I got seasickness so I was constantly vomiting.

"When all that went on I tried to rest up for an hour and my boat got blow back a mile towards the island."

Browne recovered from his disastrous first day to finish the row in Antigua 63 days later, and you can listen to his full story on this week's Left Wing podcast.

Subscribe to The Left Wing, Independent.ie's Rugby podcast in association with Laya Healthcare, with Luke Fitzgerald and Will Slattery for the best discussion and analysis each week. From in depth interviews with some of Irish rugby's biggest stars to unmatched insights into the provinces and the national team, The Left Wing has all your rugby needs covered.

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