Naked Irish rower rescued in the Indian Ocean

2011-06-07 13:36

Sydney – An Irishman hoping to become the youngest person to row the Indian Ocean has been rescued just three days into his intended 6 000-kilometre adventure.

Keith Whelan, 29, was picked up by a cargo vessel 216 kilometres off Australia’s east coast today after calling for help on his satellite phone.

Whelan, who describes himself as the Naked Adventurer because he rows without clothes, cut his head when his 7-metre boat was hit by a large wave.

He expected to be at sea for 110 days before reaching Mauritius and journey’s end.

Whelan, who only took up rowing a year ago, posted a confident message on his website before he left.

“I am a risk-taker and risking your life to achieve a dream is the biggest risk you can take,” he wrote. “Some might say it’s foolish but to my mind it is only foolish if you don’t know the risks and you don’t prepare for them and train for every possible scenario.”

When the Naked Adventurer arrives back in Australia on Thursday one of the least surprised at the shortness of his trip will be Geraldton Volunteer Marine Rescue Group head Brian McClymans.

Commodore McClymans questioned the Irishman’s competence even before he had left sight of land.

“We heard he was having difficulty out through the breakers and sent one of our vessels to monitor his movement and see that he actually was able to get through successfully,” McClymans told Australia’s Fairfax Radio.

“He apparently left and went the wrong way for a short period. I questioned in my own mind whether or not he had the ability to continue on.”

Whelan, who was raising money for charity but had only reached 3 per cent of his modest target when he set off, boasted of no ocean-going rowing experience on his website. He said he was inspired by something he watched on television.

“I guess I want to be able to look back on my life in years to come and have accomplished things which I am proud of,” he wrote.

“I am no different from everyone else in that respect. Granted my ambitions may be at the more extreme end but for me that makes them all the more worthwhile.”

The rescue, which required a diversion by a Japanese cargo vessel, is likely to prompt more demands from Australian taxpayers that solo sailors post a bond to pay for any emergencies before they leave the country.

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