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



Desert Fox's great-nephew won't give in to the sea

September 9 2004

Canadian Press

MONTREAL -- The great-nephew of German general Erwin Rommel says he can't wait to get back in the water despite a dramatic rescue off Newfoundland recently when his rowboat capsized on a bold transatlantic voyage.

"As mad as it sounds, I'm leaving in two months," Andreas Rommel, 34, said in an interview yesterday.

"I'm planning to row across the South Atlantic in mid-November because I have to do it. It's a personal challenge. I'm not going to stop on a defeat. I came back from the valley of shadow, the valley of death."

Mr. Rommel left Cape Cod, Mass., on July 17 and was hoping to arrive in England -- a distance of nearly 5,000 kilometres -- between 70 and 90 days later after navigating the notoriously choppy North Atlantic.

The northern and southern routes are about the same distance, but Mr. Rommel said the records for crossing are very different -- 42 days by the South Atlantic and 72 days by the North Atlantic.

The headstrong Mr. Rommel, who describes himself as an extreme-sports fanatic and the black sheep of his family, admits he began his trip a month too late, leaving himself and his boat vulnerable to rough seas.

"I left in the middle of the hurricane season and this year is a terrible year for hurricanes," Mr. Rommel said. "There were eight scheduled."

Mr. Rommel said his boat capsized five times in all and when he saw that it was letting in water, he decided to use the distress beacons and ask for help.

Crewmen from the Federal Elbe, which was relatively close, plucked Mr. Rommel from stormy seas about 600 kilometres east of St. John's last Thursday.

He remained aboard the vessel when the ship continued on its way to the port in Becancour, about 150 kilometres northeast of Montreal.

Mr. Rommel said that abandoning his boat is out of the question. "Rule No. 1 when you're in trouble is, 'Never leave your boat' even if it's half sunk."

He said travelling alone is a "special thing" and "pretty intense."

"You change psychologically. I think you become a bit nutty as well. You start talking to yourself."

Mr. Rommel said he doesn't believe the family name has helped or hindered him.

Erwin Rommel, nicknamed the Desert Fox, was a renowned general in the Second World War. The British eventually beat him at El Alamein in 1942.

"I've lost all contact with my German family since the age of 3," Andreas Rommel said. "My mother was remarried when I was very young. I was brought up by my stepdad, who's Italian-French."

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