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'Do or die' rower told to give up before it's too late

Second attempt: the rower Andrew Halsey and his boat Brittany Rose, which he named after the daughter with whom he was reunited last year

January 28, 2003


FEARS are growing for the safety of a British adventurer with epilepsy who set out from Peru 60 days ago in his second attempt to row the Pacific singlehandedly. Andrew Halsey vowed not to return unless he was successful.

The former bricklayer from London has travelled nearly 2,000 miles since setting out from Callao, but very few of them have been towards his intended destination in Australia. The straightline distance from his present position to Brisbane is still a daunting 7,740 miles. He is not thought to have enough food left to complete the journey.

Halsey, 41, is a veteran of a 116-day Atlantic crossing in the 1980s. His first attempt to cross the Pacific from California in 1999 ended after 266 days when he was rescued from his boat, having not eaten for 16 days, after bad luck with ocean winds. The misfortune has dogged him again.

Having been blown too far north, he has been caught in a “spin cycle” of opposing currents combining to drive him towards Panama, the wrong direction and fraught with danger from shipping.

Since he set out on November 24 he has been sending regular reports to his website but fell silent for eight days after an entry on January 15 that said: “The last couple of days have been absolute hell. I’ve had major seas from . . . every different bloody direction except the one I wish to go in. I have been thrown around like a rag doll.”

His last log entry was over five days ago: “Good conditions with winds from the east but the ocean currents are going south! I am rowing west again but going east. Unbelievable.” He adds: “I know I will reach the other side some time, maybe just a few weeks later than expected.”

Kenneth Crutchlow, executive director of the Ocean Rowing Society, the British-based body that oversees all ocean rowing attempts, said yesterday: “I’m afraid that this is do or die for Andrew.”

Mr Crutchlow was on the US Coastguard plane that found the stricken rower at the end of his last Pacific attempt, and he was one of the last people to see Halsey in Peru before he set off.

Mr Crutchlow was taken aback in Peru when the rower declared his intention not to return without succeeding. His concerns mounted when Halsey put to sea with only 40 litres of water, having chosen not to install his solar-powered watermaker — a machine that turns sea water into drinking water — until he was at sea. The rower is now reduced to using his hand-operated backup machine, producing only a cup of water every half an hour.

“He hasn’t enough food even if the winds turned favourable tomorrow and he went in a straight line,” Mr Crutchlow said. “The sensible thing would be to wrap it up, head for the coast, and try again later.”

Halsey is thought to fear that failure would halt further sponsorship. One of his most influential heroes, the British rower Peter Bird, 49, was lost in 1996 on his own fourth attempt to row the Pacific.

Halsey’s life centres on his rowing and his daughter Brittany, 18, for whom his 27ft boat Brittany Rose is named. She now lives in Florida and he was reunited with her in November for the first time in eight years since his divorce from her mother, Kimberley. At the time of Halsey’s rescue, his former wife said: “If Brittany wants to contact him, she can. But I think this is a pretty lousy way of going about getting her attention.”

After turning 18, Brittany got in touch and spent three months with him last year.

Halsey lives in a council flat and his boat represents his only capital. He was lucky to find financial support from the clothing company Le Shark, whose chairman Toby Cohen has a 19-year-old son, David, who also suffers from epilepsy. Halsey had a seizure at the board meeting called to consider the proposal and has suffered four on his voyage.

Halsey’s younger sister, Amanda, who runs The Castle pub in Colchester, spoke to him by satellite phone last Friday. “He is so determined when he gets these ideas,” she said yesterday. “I used to think he was a bit mad, but now I have only pure admiration.”

See as well
Growing appeal of ocean challenge
January 28, 2003
By Jonathan Gornall


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