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New challenge to trans-Atlantic rowing record

SEPT. 19 — On Sept. 16, Ocean Rowing Challenges America, the world’s first multihull ocean rowboat was unveiled at its birthplace on Shelter Island, N.Y., at Haps Ironworks gallery/auto body garage.

Roy Finlay, 43, has spent the past few months holed up in a small workshop at Haps Ironworks putting the finishing touches on ORCA, a trimaran ocean rowing vessel, according to his Web site.

A ShelterIsland resident and native of Scotland, Finlay will challenge for the title of the world record for a trans-Atlantic rowing voyage. A 43-foot monohull named the Le Mondiale and its French crew of 12 completed the journey in 35 days, eight hours, and 30 minutes in 1992.

Though not an official race, three crews will attempt to break the record with planned departures in November and December. Among them will be a British-Irish team rowing the original Le Mondiale boat.

The ORCA crew is slated to depart in November from the Canary Islands and arrive in the Caribbean about 40 days later, according to the site.

The race will not only achieve a dream that Finlay has had, he says, but also settle the dispute on whether multihull or monohull is better. Though Finlay will only take with him a crew of three or four, as opposed to the La Mondiale attempt with 12, he is confident the multihull design will come out on top.

“We feel that the multihull is better suited to rowing because it’s more stable, safer, and faster by design,” says Finlay on his site. “We’re going out to prove that.”

This isn’t the first attempt Finlay has made to break the trans-Atlantic speed record. In the April 1999 issue, Soundings reported that the last expedition ended abruptly when his crew of 16 mutinied 2,300 miles short of its mark, fed up with the captain and the handling of the 10-ton Atlantic Endeavor, which they said was too heavy and slow to break the record.

With the past behind him, Finlay looks forward to a new crew and giving the record a run for its money.

“It comes down to the fact that we have a boat that can break a world record,” says Finlay on his site. “From my point of view, we are going up against the fastest boat in the world, so it’s an honor.”

— Elizabeth Ellis