Former Rugby Player Becomes First Person to Successfully Row Boat From New York to Ireland

by Taylor Cunningham
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Former rugby player Damian Browne will forever be known as the first person to ever row a boat from New York City to Galway, Ireland.

Despite not knowing how to swim, Browne set forth from the Chelsea Piers in Manhattan on June 14 in a 20-foot craft named Cushlamachree. And after more than 3,000 miles, he arrived in Ireland on Tuesday, October 4.

The 42-year-old documented his entire trip on Instagram. He explained that he rowed his vessel for an astonishing 2,686 hours while “fighting mother nature every step of the way.” 

During his travels, he had several “brief encounters” with sea creatures. And at one point, he went 98 days without seeing another human being. But when he arrived in Galway, a massive crowd more than made up for the loneliness when they gave him a hero’s welcome for finishing what he called “Project Empower.”

“I can’t explain how challenging the conditions were,” he told the Irish Independent. “Obviously it’s the North Atlantic, and it’s very changeable. And every change I seemed to get was negative.” 

“[I was] constantly hit with adverse currents,” Browne continued. “So it was incredibly stressful because you would work so hard and put so much into getting one mile or two miles and then you could come off the oars for 15 minutes and you could have half of that mile wiped out and you’d have to put the head down again to regain it.”

The Record-Breaking Man Spent 112 Straight Days in His Row Boat

The rugby star, who once played for Connacht and Leinster, embarked on the adventure with a friend, Fergus Farrell. Together, they hoped to row to shore in only 56 days. But after 13, Farrell fell ill and had to be airlifted to a hospital.

Farrell was one of the first people to greet Browne when he made history.

“I am just relieved that Damo is home as I had left him alone out in the middle of the ocean,” he told the publication.

Also among the greeters were his girlfriend, Rozelle, and infant daughter, Elodie. Seeing his family was a “special moment” for the rower. But he admitted that the “solitude” wasn’t such as trying as people would guess. He tends to enjoy being alone. And he takes “energy” from his own company.

But now that he’s back in civilization, he’s enjoying his normal routine. And he’s happy to have made it to land in one piece.

“I accomplished what I wanted to,” he added. “And I’m safe and I’m uninjured and I have had an incredible reception.”