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Jol Byerley’s May 06 Letter from Antigua

If you really want to know what it feels like to be completely and utterly alone, how about rowing single handed from La Gomera in the Canary Islands, to English Harbour, Antigua. All the way across the lonely Atlantic which this year was very storm tossed and rough. The occasion was the Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race which had 26 starters! However, only 20 boats actually finished, with the unlucky ones suffering capsizes, and in a couple of cases actually pitch poling and swamping! But thanks to all sorts of lucky breaks and help from Epirbs etc, no one was actually lost. Nevertheless it has to be said here that some of the competitors were indeed very lucky!

The winners were a four-man crew of young English lads in a boat called ALL RELATIVE and not surprisingly they were cousins. Their record of 39 days and 18 hours will probably stand for a long while to come. However, this report is about a single handed lady called Roz Savage. To begin with, she was entirely alone in her boat and took more than twice the time of the winners. She suffered serious hardships including being unable to use her broken stove since before Christmas and therefore had no warm meals for two and a half months. Her two sets of oars broke whilst riding a storm but she fixed them with her total supply of sticky tape! Then the trip line to her sea anchor broke and she was required to clamber along the slippery decks and somehow recover the sea anchor itself without pitch poling. Shortly after that, her satellite telephone packed up and she was completely without communications relying solely on her Epirb if a life saving exercise became necessary. But with these sorts of problems, Roz was not alone. The Spirit of Cornwall, a two man boat, pitch poled and her crew were rescued by a support boat (the boat was later found by a fishing boat and brought into Antigua.) A New Zealand boat was abandoned and the two-man crew rescued by a support boat. A huge wave struck a two-man boat and destroyed it. After 12 hours in a life raft the crew were rescued by a container ship. Two American girls had their boat rolled while a hatch was being opened and naturally filled with water. The girls clung to the hull for 16 hours and were eventually rescued by the square rigger Stravos Niarcos who was enroute to Barbados.

A single handed man had to retire when a support boat passed by with only a few days to go to Antigua. Another boat had to give up just before arrival. So ALL RELATIVE arrived on the 8 th of January, the 2 nd boat ATLANTIC 4 arrived on the 18 th of January, 3 rd SPIRIT OF EDF arrived on the 20 th, 4 th C SQUARED on the 20 th and 5 th a French team with two amputees (who had one leg each ) arrived on the 23 rd of January. But it was the final arrival of Roz Savage after 103 days that brought out the crowds. She was as bright as a new pin, and looking like she had just completed a holiday. But she was hungry and tired. Suddenly the European papers were alive with questions and we felt like for a brief moment in time English Harbour was the hub of the world.

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