After 274 days at sea, British adventurer, Jim Shekhdar, has become the first person to row across the Pacific unassisted, but was forced to swim the last 30 metres after his boat capsized
After 274 days at sea, British adventurer, Jim Shekhdar, has become the first person to row across the Pacific unassisted, but was forced to swim the last 30 metres after his boat capsized. Wading ashore in Australia two days ago, Mr Shekhdar, 54, from Leamington Spa, was overjoyed having travelled more than 8,000 miles since leaving Peru on 29 June last year to at last achieve what he set out to do.
After surviving encounters with sharks that tried to ram his vessel and a tanker that almost sank him in its wake, his boat, Le Shark, flipped over in the surf on a beach at North Stradbroke Island, near the eastern Australian port of Brisbane.
“The boat is determined to get here before me,” said the drenched adventurer as he was surrounded by cheering spectators. “Now I want a beer and a barbecue.”
In the past few days, his self-designed, self-righting, 10-metre boat has been battered by high winds and rough seas. But his difficulties began when he found he had forgotten his tin-opener, ran out of cooking gas and almost out of food by the end of the trip, losing almost six stones in weight on the rations he had available.
Jim Shekhdar said that although he had 10 encounters with sharks, the near miss with a tanker was the most frightening incident. “I was woken early in the morning by the sound of the engine and when I looked out of the hatch, it appeared to be 50 metres away, coming straight for me. When I next looked it was 10 metres away, passing me. I don’t think he would have even felt the bump. I couldn’t sleep for a week after that.”
Jim, who cancelled an NHS hip replacement operation weeks before he left Britain, rowed about 10 miles each day, keeping in contact with his family and friends and the Ocean Rowing Society via phone, faxes and e-mail, and was continually monitored using a tracking beacon. “It was a pleasant relief to be in human company again,” he said. “The first couple of months at sea were really good as it was nice to have some solitude. But eventually it gets a bit lonely out there.”
Jim found the taste for rowing and challenges when in 1997 he rowed across the Atlantic with fellow rower David Jackson. In addition to being the only Pacific Ocean crossing in a rowing boat without assistance, Jim can also claim to be the quickest, finishing 20 days faster than an assisted row by Englishman Peter Bird in 1983. After months at sea, endless toil and living in cramped conditions with little food, Britain’s record-breaking rower now plans to celebrate for a week before planning his next adventure.