French rower claims solo Pacific record

2nd November 2005, Comments 0 comments

COOS BAY, Oregon, Nov 1 (AFP) - French oarsman Emmanuel Coindre reached dry land for the first time in four months Tuesday after rowing 11,000km across the Pacific Ocean from Japan to the US West Coast.

COOS BAY, Oregon, Nov 1 (AFP) - French oarsman Emmanuel Coindre reached dry land for the first time in four months Tuesday after rowing 11,000km across the Pacific Ocean from Japan to the US West Coast.

Following the grueling feat of human endurance, the 32-year-old is claiming the record for the fastest solo rowboat crossing of the Pacific by beating the only other person to achieve the treacherous voyage by five days.

"For me it's a big day. I have done my best every day. It was a challenge and for me I love to be the best," the tanned but very healthy-looking Coindre said after coming ashore in the Oregon town of Coos Bay.

Coindre rowed alone from the Japanese port of Choshi into US territorial waters off the northwestern state of Oregon in 129 days, 17 hours, 20 minutes and 20 seconds, entering US waters at 3:22pm on Monday.

Sponsors then towed him to shore where he set foot on land at around 12:30am Tuesday to be reunited with his parents and brother.

He checked into the nearest hotel and ordered his first hot meal since leaving Japan on June 24: two hamburgers and some French fries.

His feat came 14 years after fellow Frenchman Gérard D'Aboville became the first person to row across the Pacific from Choshi to Ilwaco in the US state of Washington in 134 days in 1991. No independent verification of Coindre's new record was immediately available.

The trip was extremely tough, plagued by bad weather that required Coindre to push both his body and mind to the limit, leaving his hands scabbed and calloused and his body nine kilograms lighter.

"It was a battle to cross the ocean," he said of his lonely but dramatic trip during which his small boat capsized 16 times.

"For me this was winning my fight," he said after rowing for 16-18 hours a day amid bad typhoon weather that spawned 70 days of rain and 49 days of giant swells.

"I was dealing with 90 percent humidity. You have to embrace suffering in order to go fast," he told AFP.

But while Coindre was proud of his accomplishment, he was disappointed that bad weather in the final days of his journey had prevented him from reaching his intended destination: San Francisco's famed Golden Gate Bridge, which lies around 800km to the south of here.

"I'm a little disappointed not to have made it to San Francisco, but the weather decided otherwise. In my heart, I would have liked to go to San Francisco to see the Golden Gate," he said after cutting his voyage short.

During his trip he developed a relationship with two seagulls who he came across on his seventh day at sea and who became his only company throughout his solitary voyage.

"On my seventh day, I met two seagulls who I named Jonathan and Seven. After a while I didn't know who was following whom. We spoke to each other. You need that for your mental stability, to avoid slipping into madness," he told AFP.

To help keep him on an even keel, he also carried precious photographs of his loved ones and snaps of his five previous ocean crossings, when he tackled the Atlantic.

"I told myself I was only going to look at them when things got tough, but during difficult times I didn't want to look at them in case the next day was even worse. In the end, I only looked at them the day before I arrived in America."

During the dramatic trip, Coindre saw 14 sharks and even reached out to touch dolphins, but did not see another human until nearing the coast of Oregon.

His only contact with humanity was via his satellite phone which eventually gave out. A new phone was air dropped to him.

Sponsored by watch-maker Jaeger-LeCoultre, Coindre's yellow-and-black boat, christened 'Inky Lady', measured just 6.5m and weighed 650 kilograms.

"This is a victory of man against himself and not of man against the ocean," he told AFP. "The ocean let me through and I respect it for that. It could have sent me to the bottom.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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