CHATHAM — There’ll soon be a virtual
traffic jam of rowboats attempting the west-to-east passage from Chatham
to France. Veteran rower Emmanuel Coindre and newcomer Andreas
Rommel were both expected to begin their transatlantic rows this
week, joining Jean Lukes and Anne Quéméré who left last
While some adventurers see a transatlantic row as a once-in-a-lifetime
achievement, Coindre sees it as a continual lure. If he completes this
row, it will be his fourth crossing. It leaves many people—including
some in the sport—asking why Coindre is rowing again.
“It’s a style of life,” he said. Though he previously crossed the
Atlantic along the southerly Trade Winds route by “hydro-cycle,”
Coindre’s rowing career began in 2001 when he crossed by the southerly
route in 57 days. In July 2002, Coindre rowed out of Chatham on his
first attempt at the more difficult west-to-east route, and arrived in
France in 87 days.
Coindre tried the west-to-east route last year, but had to abort his
trip when his boat capsized on Georges Bank and would not right itself.
The Coast Guard retrieved Coindre but could not recover the boat. It was
ultimately found by a Nova Scotia fisherman, retrieved by Coindre and
In January of this year, Coindre broke the world record for the fastest
passage along the Trade Winds route, making the crossing in 42 days.
“It was my training,” he said coyly. His goal now is another crossing
along the northern route. Coindre completely repaired his boat, the
19-foot Ladybird, repainting it yellow and modifying fins on the bottom
to help the boat right itself after capsizing. In addition to food and
water, Ladybird is equipped with a satellite telephone, two GPS
receivers, an emergency position-indicating radio beacon, and two
desalinating machines. It does not have satellite tracking Argos
“I know it’s better to cross with a maximum of safety,” he said. But
Coindre said he rows without benefit of major sponsors or fund-raising
teams, and cannot afford to rent the beacons. “If you have money, it’s
no problem,” he said. In 2002, the Ocean Rowing Society arranged for the
beacons to be donated by Le Shark in London, and in 2003, his Chatham
host family arranged for the beacons.
As he has said in the past, Coindre maintains he is not attempting to
break the record for the fastest west-to-east passage, currently held by
Gerard D’Aborville. If he completes the passage, he will become the
first person to cross twice in both directions, the first to cross the
ocean five times, and the first to cross twice in one year.
“If the weather wants, I can break the record,” he said. “But it’s not
my goal. My goal is to finish.”
Coindre was waiting for changes in the weather before departing, but
expected to row out sometime this week.