75-year-old Frenchman attempting to row across the Atlantic still missing

France  AFPPhilippe Lopez
JAN 24, 2022 LISTEN
AFPPhilippe Lopez

The body of the 75-year-old Frenchman attempting to row across the Atlantic has not been recovered, the Portuguese navy said Sunday, a day after his support team said he had been found dead in his boat near the Azores.

"The search ended at the end of the day yesterday [Saturday] without it being possible to find the victim," said a statement from the navy on the search for 75-year-old Jean-Jacques Savin.

A navy spokesman explained that during the rescue operation, the team had had "strong reasons to believe that a body could be inside" the cabin of Savin's vessel, the Audacieux.

A member of Savin's support team told French news agency AFP: "There has been some confusion that we are currently trying to clear up. We don't know any more.

"We are waiting for information from the Portuguese authorities."

The navy's statement contradicted Saturday's message from the team that was backing Savin in his trans-Atlantic bid.

They said the Portuguese coastguard had located his overturned boat off the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores on Friday and that on Saturday, a diver had found Savin's body inside the cabin.

Savin, an avid triathlete and former paratrooper, set off from mainland Portugal's southern tip on the 1st of January.

It was just his latest adventure after crossing the Atlantic alone in a custom-built barrel in 2019, a 127-day trip followed by thousands on Facebook.

He had been hoping to reach the Caribbean, in his rowing boat, which was eight metres long and 1.70 metres wide, with a rowing station at its centre.

But there had been no contact with him since overnight Thursday to Friday when he activated two distress beacons.

He was last heard of north of Madeira, Portuguese islands off the northwest coast of Africa, on his way to Ponta Delgada in the Azores.

Shortly after leaving on January 1, unfavourable wind conditions had forced the adventurer to extend his trip by 900 kilometres.

On Wednesday, he had reported "strong swell and... wind" on Facebook, adding that he had been forced to switch from using an electric water desalinator to a backup one operated by hand.

75th birthday on board

Savin, who said rowing across the Atlantic was a way to "laugh at old age", celebrated his 75th birthday on Friday last week on board his two-cabin boat.

He left with it packed with 300 kilos of equipment, including freeze-dried food, a spear gun to fish and a heater, as well as the two desalinators.

To celebrate his birthday, he had also brought along his mandolin, foie gras and champagne.

"I'm off on holiday to the open sea," he had said before leaving. "I will row eight hours a day and when the wind blows too hard, I'll close myself in."

He was looking forward to an extra safety measure that he did not have during his last barrel crossing: a tracker to make him visible to the radars of passing cargo ships.

(with AFP)

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