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Capsizing ends trans-Atlantic rowing attempt

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Two Canadians and two Americans attempting to set a world record for an unassisted, human-powered row across the Atlantic Ocean have been rescued after a rogue wave capsized their boat after 73 days at sea, the U.S. Coast Guard and organizers said Sunday.

The four endurance rowers, including Canadian Olympic gold medalist Adam Kreek, were rescued from waters some 400 miles north of the U.S. Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. They were attempting to row more than 4,000 miles between the West African nation of Senegal and Miami and set a Guinness World Record.

But after weeks of battling rough weather, a couple of shattered oars and various technological headaches, the adventurers were forced to take to a life raft early Saturday after their 29-foot ocean rowboat, the James Robert Hanssen, overturned and could not be righted. They donned life jackets and set off a personal locator beacon.

Coast Guard crews located the men a few hours after getting a distress signal on Saturday morning and a cargo ship later picked up the rowers. They were all in good health and heading for Puerto Rico on Sunday.

“For just about the entire trip, except for about eight days, the weather and conditions did not match up with the expected models and predictions. So it was a bit of a slog for a good portion of the whole trip,” said Greg Spooner, land operations chief for Seattle-based OAR Northwest, which organized the trans-Atlantic attempt sponsored by the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

The boat carrying the four rowers – Kreek, fellow Canadian Markus Pukonen and Seattle’s Patrick Fleming and Jordan Hanssen – was outfitted with communication devices and a wind turbine that powered batteries, including one for desalinating seawater. But early on in the expedition, the turbine failed to spin correctly and power had to be carefully rationed.

“That meant on some days choosing to make water or keeping your communications equipment on so ships could see you,” Spooner said by phone on Sunday.


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