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Rowers break record, fly back to Ireland

Relentless Rowers Seán Underwood, Pat O’Connor, Eoin O’Farrell and Thomas Browne at Dublin Airport after completing their epic row across the Atlantic.


By Ray O’Hanlon

This was a one way row with the journey home beginning on a runway.

But nobody would begrudge the “Relentless Rowers” the comfort of plane seats after what they had just accomplished.

The fearless foursome had completed the 5,000 kilometer (3,000 nautical miles) Talisker Atlantic Challenge in 32 days, 22 hours and 4 minutes.

The Irish rowers finished in sixth place out of 26 rowing teams.

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The row was in aid the Children’s Unit at Cork University Hospital.

The team, dubbed the “Relentless Rowers,” had hoped to break the world mark by completing the voyages from the Canary Island of La Gomera to the Caribbean island of Antigua in under 35 days.

And this they did with a couple of days to spare while also claiming solely for themselves the Irish record for a transatlantic row.

The team, comprising of junior doctors Seán Underwood and Patrick O’Connor, Cork-based podiatrist Eoin O’Farrell, and young Dublin entrepreneur Thomas Browne, were the first all-Irish four-man crew to complete the challenge.

The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is described as the world’s toughest row, and the Irish team made their way across the miles in a specially-designed, 28-foot, ocean rowing boat named “Saoirse.”

They received no outside assistance and no re-supplies of food, drink or equipment during the race, surviving solely on what was on-board.

Sean Underwood said before the row: “Fewer people have crossed the Atlantic than have climbed Everest, so we’re well aware of the challenge we’re undertaking, but quite simply, we believe that you only get one shot at life, everybody dies but not everybody lives.

“In the hospitals we work in, we are faced almost daily with the fragility of the human condition. To put a dream on hold in the hope of affording a better time to do it is a dangerous thing. Life fleets past us. There is and will never be a ‘good’ time to row an ocean, so we’re acting on our dreams here and now.

“If we can make a difference to just one child in the CUH Children’s Unit by competing in this race, then it will all have been worth it.”

While their primary goal was to raise funds for the Children’s Unit, the rowers were also hoping to raise awareness and funds for the suicide prevention charity, Pieta House.

The rowers appeared on RTE’s Late Late Show last Friday and recounted the highs and lows of their oceanic adventure.

They had tales of dolphins, whales, breathtaking sunsets and sunrises.

And also rough weather and waves as high as forty feet during storms Dylan and Eleanor.

And despite each of them taking in about 5,000 calories a day, the four were a leaner lot when they finally rowed into harbor in Antigua on January 20.

The Relentless Rowers have now raised close to 24,000 euro for Cork University Hospital and Pieta House.