The ORS Int. is the official adjudicator of ocean rowing records for Guinness World Records

 


 
129 Days In A Row
Wednesday, November 2, 2005

By Winston Ross

CHARLESTON - He cut the calluses off his hands when they grew too thick. He didn't wear gloves, because he likes the feel of wood against his skin. He befriended a seagull, Jonathan, and a whale, Seven.

He rowed, and rowed, and rowed some more. For 129 days, 17 hours, 20 minutes and 20 seconds, Frenchman Emmanuel Coindre rowed across the Pacific Ocean. Five thousand, six hundred and thirty nautical miles. From Tokyo to the Oregon Coast.

In a kayak.

No ordinary kayak, to be sure. Coindre's sleek yellow vessel is 21 feet long and 6 feet wide, with a self-righting bar mounted to the deck. It's equipped with solar panels powering a battery he used to turn salt water into drinking water, cook food, take photographs and video footage of the journey, and charge up his satellite phone. He crawled inside the craft's capsule to sleep - or to ride out 30-foot breakers that flipped his boat 16 separate times
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It's a fancy kayak. But that didn't make Coindre's journey easy. He rowed an average of 16 to 18 hours and 44 miles per day, surviving on energy bars, rice, mashed potatoes and pasta. Twice, waves knocked him from the boat deck. With no life jacket or harness, he had to swim his way back to safety or drown.

It was a monumental feat. But was it a record? The watchmaker that sponsored Coindre's trip called him the "first man to conquer the northern Pacific" (he already has crossed the Atlantic five times) and said that no one else has made the journey unassisted.

The Register-Guard photo

Emmanuel Coindre celebrates after arriving in Oregon at the end of his solo trip across the Pacific Ocean in his high-tech kayak. He usually rowed 16 to 18 hours a day and travelled about 44 miles a day.

Chris Pietsch
The Register-Guard



That's entirely false, said Kenneth Crutchlow, president of the London-based Ocean Rowing Society, which maintains a record of every ocean row from beginning to end. And the sponsor's claims could ignite a debate in the international rowing community, however small it is.

"This has put us in a very thought-provoking position," Crutchlow said in an interview from London. "We don't want in any way to take away being 130 days at sea in a small boat, and acknowledge what a fantastic effort that is. We know Emmanuel and consider him a friend. But his fellow Frenchman, Gerard d'Aboville, was the first man to row the Pacific Ocean from West to East."

Further, Coindre's trip couldn't even set the record for fastest unassisted row across the Pacific, Crutchlow said, because he was resupplied with a new satellite phone and food a week ago and towed in by a Charleston charter vessel from 20 miles offshore early Tuesday morning.

"To us, that disqualifies the whole trip. He hasn't reached the finish line. We all started to suspect something very strange was happening when he got the resupply of the phone a week ago. You don't need a new phone when you are only a week from shore," said Tom Sjogren, who works on the Web site Explorerersweb, which also monitors such adventures. "If you get a cup of tea, you are resupplied."

In his Web journal, Coindre explained that the two phones he'd taken with him broke. For safety reasons, he wrote, he called in the air drop with a new phone and some chocolate bars.

Coindre's sponsor, watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre, stands by its claim, spokesman Katie Kinsella said. She said d'Aboville never made it to land, that he had to be helicoptered* into Washington state when he crossed the Pacific in 1991. The resupply doesn't count as an "assist," because it didn't involve help with the rowing. And the tow-in doesn't mean Coindre didn't make it all the way because he crossed into Oregon waters.


* - This statement is not accurate - there was no helicopter involved in Gerard's arrival


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