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Adventurer braced for 'teary reunion' with boat abandoned in hurricane

Published 06/01/2016

British adventurer Sarah Outen completed the four-and-a-half year London2London: Via the World expedition
British adventurer Sarah Outen completed the four-and-a-half year London2London: Via the World expedition

A record-breaking British adventurer is expecting a tearful reunion with the ocean rowing boat she abandoned in a hurricane only to be discovered months later off Ireland.

An RNLI crew from Castletownbere in west Cork were tasked yesterday to reports of a vessel off Mizen Head only to discover it was the unmanned Happy Socks, used by round-the-world athlete Sarah Outen.

The 30-year-old was five months at sea, rowing the Atlantic from Cape Cod in the US to Britain, on the final leg of her epic 25,000 mile global endeavour when she had to be rescued 400 miles from Portugal.

The vessel was left to the elements in the midst of hurricane Juaquin 143 days into her transatlantic attempt.

When she heard news of the discovery Ms Outen said: "I got that wonderful sort of news that makes your tummy turn and tears flow and rocks your happy socks off. Happy Socks is safe."

The volunteer lifeboat recovered the boat from near Dunmanus Bay in force seven winds before towing it back to Castletownbere where they made contact with Ms Outen to break the good news.

A spokesman said Ms Outen would be hoping to salvage the boat, built at a cost of about £250,000.

"When you are at sea for six months or so and not really speaking to a human being, the boat takes on a life of its own," he said.

"Losing it would be something akin to grieving. I'd say there'll be a teary reunion."

On being rescued by a passing ship in late October, Ms Outen was taken to Canada before she made her way back to Falmouth in Cornwall where she picked up her journey by bike.

The London2London: Via the World expedition was a four-and-a-half year adventure to travel around the northern hemisphere by rowing boat, bike and kayak to "inspire children and fundraise".

She set off from London's Tower Bridge on April 1 2011 and returned to the same place in early November after paddling up the Thames.

Her trip made her the youngest person to row across the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Alaska, a feat which was also marked by her proposal to her girlfriend Lucy by satellite phone.

Ms Outen is taking a break from adventures and writing a book on her exploits, Dare to Do.

From her bolt-hole she vowed not to attempt another solo row across an ocean.

"Happy Socks, my rowing boat, was left drifting and I wondered if we would see her again. We had two sightings during the three months that she was adrift and I was hopeful that she was getting closer to a possible recovery," she said.

"To find out that she had been spotted offshore in Ireland and towed to safety by the local RNLI crew was fantastic. To me it feels like a friend coming back from the dead.

"I am very grateful to the crew and amazed at our good luck. I look forward to being reunited with her."

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