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


Rower Coindre Nears Goal, Rommel Rescued

September 9 2004

by Alan Pollock


CHATHAM — The 2004 North Atlantic rowing season is about at an end. One rower, Emmanuel Coindre, was expected to reach his goal this week, claiming the record for the fastest solo west-to-east transatlantic row ever. The other rower, Andreas Rommel, is just glad to be alive.

At The Chronicle’s press time Tuesday, Coindre was located less than 100 miles west of the so-called Lizard Meridian, the traditional finish line for Atlantic Ocean rowers. Since last Friday, he has been drifting south, kept offshore by strong east and northeast winds, rowing at full speed to keep from being blown back out to sea. In the log posted on his Web site, Coindre begged the sky and sea to relent, ending his torment. Coindre reported that he has all but run out of energy to row.

On Saturday, Coindre was visited by his father, brother and uncle, who chartered a catamaran to visit him and offer him encouragement. While they had intended to stay with Coindre, the bad weather prompted them to leave. For Coindre, deprived of human contact for so long, the experience was emotional and difficult.

Even as Coindre prepares for a triumphant arrival, his colleague, Andreas Rommel of Germany, called off his adventure Sept. 2. Rommel described the events of the day in a posting at

After making good progress through the early fringes of Hurricane Gaston the day before, Rommel watched as the weather quickly deteriorated. The mad flapping of his flag in the wind suddenly ended as the wind ripped the flag away. About one hour later, the boat suddenly capsized, sending equipment and supplies everywhere. Thirty minutes later, his ocean rowboat capsized again; on the third capsize, Rommel found himself on all fours kneeling on the roof of the cabin.

“All of a sudden, my right hand goes through the back hatch straight in the ocean; 20 to 30 liters of water came sucked in very fast before she self-righted again,” he wrote. “Now I’m scared; in the dark, thinking that my small hatch has been ripped out, knowing that I will be capsizing again very soon.” But upon further investigation, Rommel learned that the hatch had simply come open, and is undamaged.

The next capsize hit with a tremendous force, ripping the boat’s rudder away. Rommel activated the emergency radio beacons and summoned help. When daylight came, he checked the damage to the boat, finding all four oars had been snapped like matchsticks, and other important equipment had been washed away.

The distress call touched off a record-breaking rescue effort for the Canadian Coast Guard. While a Hercules aircraft circled Rommel’s boat, a rescue helicopter from Gander, Newfoundland, flew to the extreme limits of its range, refueling twice from an offshore oil rig, and arrived just in time to guide the 650-foot bulk carrier Federal Elbe to Rommel’s location. The Federal Elbe took Rommel safely on board, and recovered his boat, as well. The helicopter crew set a record for the farthest any Canadian Forces helicopter has ever gone offshore, 488 miles from St. John’s..

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