Brits top Yanks in trans-At row race

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JAN. 23 — Even with a revolutionary custom-built ocean rowing vessel, Roy Finlay and his American crew were still three days behind the British crew of La Mondiale, the rival blue-water row boat they raced some 3,000 miles across the Atlantic. When the trans-At row race concluded, La Mondiale set a new record by crossing the Atlantic in 33 days, seven hours and 30 minutes on Jan. 17. The same boat had held the trans-At row record since 1992 and now, with a new crew, shaved another two days off its own record.

But it did not come easily. About 65 miles from the finish, the crew of La Mondiale found themselves pestered by hundreds of fish leaping out of the sea and onto the deck, according to a report in the British newspaper, The Times.

“It was as if we were being attacked,” said one crewmember, PJ Luard, in the article. “They were hitting us on the face, on the crotch, anywhere — it was just incredible. It was during the night, so we shone a [light] over the side and saw hundreds of these flying fish all around us.”

La Mondiale, a British-built 53-foot monohull, first set the record for crossing the Atlantic in 35 days, eight hours and 30 minutes in 1992 with a crew of 12, according to a report in the January issue of Soundings. This time, she was armed with a crew of 14, skippered by British sailor Leven Brown, 35. Finlay had a crew of three aboard his multi-hulled 30-foot ORCA (Ocean Rowing Challenges America) to brave the voyage that started in the Canary Islands and ended in Port St. Charles, Barbados, according to the article.

Finlay and his crew made it in 36 days and 55 minutes, but still broke the record by four minutes for the fastest four-man rowboat to complete the journey, according to a report in the New York paper, Newsday. Their journey had been relatively smooth but ORCA was delayed when their satellite phone short-circuited in late December, according to the report. ORCA reached a top speed of 17 knots when the crew reportedly found themselves riding down a 35-foot wave.

“It was absolutely amazing to see them pull up,” says Ryan Cuddihy, son of rower Chris Cuddihy, 54, of Riverhead, N.Y. “The enormity of the task had not hit me in the 40 days.” www.oceanrowing.com

— Elizabeth Ellis