Browne nears end of epic Atlantic race

Galway’s solo Atlantic rower Damian Browne is closing in on the finish line of his epic journey, and is expected in Antigua in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

It has taken some 64 days to complete the 3,000 mile crossing which has been the roughest and windiest in the history of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

Ready and waiting at Nelson’s Dockyard will be Damian’s mum and dad Mary and Joe, sister Gillian, and brother Andrew, who have anxiously followed his journey since leaving La Gomera in the Canary Islands more than two months ago.

In that time Browne has capsized on at least three occasions, battled huge waves and fierce winds, suffered blisters, sores and a head laceration, and on his final few days even faced the prospect of being mowed down by a cargo ship.

“Incredible”, says brother Andrew, who left yesterday morning to join his family in the Caribbean.

“I don’t think people can really comprehend what he is going through - it is somehting 99.9 per cent of the population just could not do,” he says.

“I really can’t wait for him to get in. I sensed when talking to him that the past few days have been difficult, and he never lets on too much. However knowing him, he’ll put in a big effort the closer he gets to the line.

“He has had little respite, and we can only try to imagine. It seems he has experienced it all in this race - from facing the difficulties of trying to escape the trade winds early on when two solo boats were forced to withdraw, capsizing, and now rowing straight into the path of a cargo ship.

“I sense the most dificult time is at night - he says it can be quite disorientating.”

Andrew, who followed his brother’s footstep and became a Connacht Rugby player, had not expected to be anywhere near the Caribbean this week. Out of action due to a persistent Achilles injury, for which he eventually underwent surgery in October, Andrew finally returned to play last Friday night with hopes of joining the squad on their trip to South Africa. Instead he suffered a shoulder injury and will now be sidelined for another six weeks.

“I had prepared myself for not being there, I guess there is a silver lining to my injury. With a down week for players in three weeks, Connacht agreed for me to swap those weeks. Damian has no idea I am going to be there, so it will be a surprise.”

Also waiting for Damian’s arrival are a number of friends, one of whom is travelling from New York, and a growing number of fans.

“He has also grabbed a large following en route, and even in Antigua they are following him because he will be the last to finish. It will be really something special.

“I just well with pride when I think of what he has put himself through, while Mum and Dad will be there on the docks with both pride and relief that he has competed perhaps the toughest of his adventures to date.

“Mum said he was the last to leave La Gomera and it’s only appropriate he is the last to arrive in Antigua.”

“It has been one hell of a challenge in the many Damian Browne has undertaken, and Andrew believes it will not stop him from pursuing more.

“More than likely it will drive him for bigger and better. He thrives on pushing himself, both physically and mentally.”

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