Rower's return 7/23/99
By BARB SWEET The Telegram

Matt Boreham of England and his rowboat are towed backn into St. John's Harbour Thursday afternoon by a coast guard fast rescue craft after a failed attmpt to row across teh Atlantic Ocean. He is reconsidering this year's attempt. (Inset) Boreham rows his boat several miles outside St. John's harbor. (Photo: Keith Gosse/The Telegram)


Englishman Matt Boreham aborted his attempt to row solo from St. John’s to England Thursday when he had a change of heart about six kilometres outside the harbour.

Boreham was towed back by a fast rescue craft and reached Prosser’s Rock small boat basin at the mouth of The Narrows at about 3 p.m.

“It’s either going to feel right or it doesn’t,” said Boreham, 30, shortly after tying up his 23.4-foot light rowboat, especially designed to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

Boreham said it was the wrong time of year to attempt a crossing and he didn’t want to take the risk.

He also missed his two children, Georgina, 2, and A.J., eight months, who are back in England with their grandparents.

But Boreham said his boat performed “brilliantly,” working with the wind and current.

That is, when it was aimed at England. When he changed his mind about the trip, which would have taken 90 days, the craft was against the wind and he wasn’t moving.

“Had I carried on, there would be no problem,” he said. “As soon as you try to turn around and come back the other way — not a chance.”

He radioed the coast guard about 1:30 p.m., asking for a weather report and was offered a tow.

The solo rower’s wife, Alison, was surprised to learn he was headed back.

“I don’t know why he’s back yet,” she said, when asked how she felt about her boat-builder husband’s abrupt return.

Alison was to fly out on Sunday and it’s likely Boreham will be with her.

He said he hasn’t decided what to do, but it’s doubtful he’ll attempt the Atlantic crossing again this year.

Bonavista crab fisherman Bill Maidment watched Boreham leave Prosser’s Rock Thursday morning and watched him come back.

“That was pretty quick,” said Maidment, who was working aboard the 59-foot vessel, Eastern Challenger.

It’s not something Maidment would ever attempt, knowing the Atlantic Ocean as he does.

“That’s for people with nothing else in life to do,” he said.

Dockside worker Russell Snelgrove wasn’t surprised either to see Boreham return.

“I thought he was crazy to do it,” he said.

Boreham wanted to begin in May, but the trip kept getting delayed because of shipping problems. He actually arrived in St. John’s last Thursday, after finally shipping the Spirit of Spelthorne II to St. John’s for $7,020.

“The effort of having to get the damn thing here in the first place was an enormous strain,” he said.

The boat is named for Spelthorne, the English borough near London where Boreham lives.

He could store the rowboat in St. John’s for an early start next year, ship it to the Canary Islands for an attempt at another southern Atlantic Ocean crossing, which he tried twice before, or sell it.

He estimates the boat is worth $90,000 to $200,000 to anyone who wants to enter the Atlantic Rowing Race in 2000 from the Azores to the Barbados.

Spirit of Spelthorne II is named for the boat Boreham built for his first attempt at an Atlantic crossing in the 1997 race. He purchased his current rowboat from another racer.

In November 1997, he and his brother, Ed, were halfway through the race when their desalination plant — which converts salt water to drinking water — broke down.

Ed couldn’t continue under the mental strain.

They burned their boat, Spirit of Spelthorne, at sea because the yacht that rescued them could not tow it.

In June 1998, Boreham was 10 days out on a solo attempt of the same route when the same water problem occurred.

This time around, leaving St. John’s, he had all bottled water on board.

Boreham had never been to St. John’s before and picked it because it’s the easternmost city in North America.