129 Days In A Row
Wednesday, November 2, 2005
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
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
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
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.
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
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