Lone sailor's Pacific bid fails

A LONE rower's dreams to cross the Pacific were in tatters last night after he was rescued by a Panamanian fishing boat. American coastguards had been scrambled to rescue Essex man Andrew Halsey, who suffers from epilepsy, after their colleagues in the UK received an international distress call from his boat the Brittany Rose.

A LONE rower's dreams to cross the Pacific were in tatters last night after he was rescued by a Panamanian fishing boat.

American coastguards had been scrambled to rescue Essex man Andrew Halsey, who suffers from epilepsy, after their colleagues in the UK received an international distress call from his boat the Brittany Rose.

However, despite diverting their cutter, the USS Munro, Mr Halsey was picked up by a fishing vessel, the Tarzan 16, and his boat was then set adrift.

The rescue will come as a bitter blow to Mr Halsey, who comes from Clacton, whose manager said the 45-year-old would not give up on his effort to be the first disabled rower to cross the Pacific, even if it meant remaining at sea for two years.

The drama unfolded on the 128th day of the trip which left from Callao in Peru and was due to end in Brisbane, Australia.

It also emerged that there had been a small electrical fire on the Brittany Rose, although it is unclear if that caused the abandonment.

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Mr Halsey, on his second attempt to cross the Pacific, was about 5 degrees north west of the Galapagos Islands and remained more than 7,000 miles from his goal.

Quarter Master, Kurt Tremont, of the US Coastguard, confirmed the end of the record attempt.

He said: "Mr Halsey has been picked up by a Panamanian fishing vessel called the Tarzan 16 and the Brittany Rose has been set adrift. We have now picked up Mr Halsey from the fishing vessel.

"We will be carrying out an interview to ask how he is and see what he plans to do."

Although no exact figure has been put on the efforts of the US Coastguard, one officer said the cost would definitely be thousands of dollars.

Mr Halsey's brother Nick, who lives in Denmark, said he was proud of his brother's attempt but did not know what had caused the end of the effort.

"We are disappointed, of course, last time I spoke to him he was in good spirits and we were re-organising a re-supply.

"He won't have given up for a minor reason – he told me there was no way he would be giving up.

"We are pleased he is ok and I am sure that as soon as he is back he will start planning a new trip."

He added there had been some difficulty in contacting his brother recently because the satellite phone service had been changed to a different supplier.

Kenneth Crutchlow of the Ocean Rowing Society, which has backed Mr Halsey's record attempt said: "We are delighted that he is ok – it is our understanding that after he was picked up, his boat was then set adrift.

"We are hoping that he took off £20,000 of electrical gear before the boat was lost."

"It looks as though he does not have any life threatening injuries – he is on board the US Munro and has been talking but obviously he will be fed up and disappointed."

Speaking yesterday, before the rescue, Mr Crutchlow said the society had regretfully asked the US coastguards to tell the rower to abandon the trip.

He said: "We believe his progress of six miles a day on average and the reality of how far away he still is from Australia and 3,000 miles away from re-supplies that there is no hope he can get anywhere.

"We are asking the coast guard to pick him up – the coastguard has no power to take any one off the ocean if they resist – but we feel that if he is not picked up now, there's an inevitability it will be later."

He said they had tried not to be emotional about the decision and instead had based it on the logic of how far Mr Halsey, whose mother and sister live in Essex, had reached and the lack of supplies now remaining.

Mr Halsey's manager until recent weeks, Steve Ashby, said he was relieved that Mr Halsey was ok.

"I am extremely disappointed but saying that I am ever so relieved that he is ok and can come home.

It has been a really trying time in the last couple of weeks but I am over the moon that I will be able to see him soon and have a drink together again."

Mr Halsey had been the first disabled person to row the Atlantic in 1997, and despite suffering a number of epileptic seizures on this voyage, he had continued.

Last night, a decision was due to be taken whether Mr Halsey would remain on board the fishing boast or board the US Coastguard's vessel.

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