Monday, December 15, 2008

Rower falls short

An Italian man who was trying to row solo across the Pacific Ocean has had to be rescued just short of his destination in Australia. The rower, Alex Bellini, had been at sea since leaving Peru in February and was about to reach Sydney.

But he was forced to call for help just 65 nautical miles away from land as fierce storms battered the eastern coast of Australia. Mr Bellini said he was nonetheless happy with his achievement.

He would have been only the fifth person to complete the crossing in a rowing boat, a journey of 18,000 kilometres (10,000 nautical miles). But facing storms and, according to Australian police, "nearing exhaustion", he was forced to radio for help.

A New Zealand tugboat which was in the area towed the adventurer's boat in Newcastle harbour in New South Wales.

"I'm not disappointed. I'm not disappointed at all," he told the AFP news agency.

"I've been not able to reach land... but the crossing has been made. I didn't put the cherry on top of the cake. But the cake is very good, very big and I will never forget about it."

He said that seeing his wife Francesca waiting for him was "one of the best moments in my life". Bellini said that he had not walked more than a few metres since February, as he averaged about 30 miles a day in his 7.5-metre (25-foot) boat.

His body weight dropped by 15kg (33lbs) during his 10 months at sea. Fear, he added, was his companion on the voyage. He kept in contact with a support team via a satellite phone and lived on dried food, drinking rain water and purified sea water.

Video HERE

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