Thursday, 25 August 2011

Rowers set Indian Ocean record after deadly shipwreck at finish

                                             James Adair (L) and Ben Stenning - pic BBC

James Adair and Ben Stenning are two British nationals who rowed for almost four months from Australia to Mauritius in a 23-foot boat. They are the first to make the punishing 3200-mile voyage across the Indian Ocean unsupported, and the third to do so, ever. The two subjected themselves to a gruelling daily routine where each man rowed for 3 hours and took 3 hours off, round the clock. The 116-day odyssey ended in high drama that almost cost them their lives on August 14 when their boat capsized within sight of shore, and huge waves threatened to smash them against a coral reef.

Londoner James Adair later told the BBC, "It was a wall of water. It just seemed to black out the sky. Our oars were gone, we were thrown overboard, everything was ripped apart. We just thought we were going to die." James was paralysed for a month by Guillain-Barre syndrome when he was 14; the voyage was to raise money to research the disease.

"I was bleeding a lot from cuts on my leg so Ben kept looking underwater for sharks," James added. "Every time a wave sent us under we would cling to each other." The two had tried to set off parachute flares that were on hand to celebrate their arrival when they were hit by a massive wave.

In Mauritius, the alarm was sounded after the two lost radio contact with shore. A rescue helicopter could not see the duo in darkness, who had abandoned the boat dressed just in shorts and struggled to swim to the coral reef, where they were badly lacerated all over their bodies.

Many local boats sped out to the site to help; one of them finally spotted an oar close to the two shipwrecked rowers, who whistled and shouted until they were eventually located. They were, by that time, shivering with shock, cold, exhaustion and dehydration.

Ben Stenning says they were very lucky to be rescued. "We knew we had to get out of there," said the 31 year old. "We had to get away from those rocks or it would be game over."

Race organiser Simon Clark confirmed that it was the first time in history that a pair has rowed across the Indian Ocean without a support boat. That boat- the £15,000 'Indian Runner'- is smashed, but their mascot, 'Paddington Bear', has survived intact, lashed to the prow and missing just one Wellington boot after 3,200 miles, says the BBC.

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