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From Lagos across the Atlantic

By: SOPHIE MCCARRICK – [email protected]

Hungarian canoeist Gabor Rakonczay has entered the world record books as the first person to paddle across the Atlantic Ocean in a canoe from Lagos, Portugal, to the Caribbean in 76 days.

The 30-year-old departed alone from the Lagos Marina on December 21, 2011 on an adventure expected to take 80 days. However, despite fears that he had drowned, he arrived 19 days early on the Island of Antigua on March 26.

He stopped only once for supplies and rest in the Canary Islands.

The adventurer accomplished his challenge in a 24.61 foot long canoe (7.5 metres) called Knight, or Vitez in Hungarian, designed especially for the almost 3,500 mile journey.

However, the canoe capsized twice in heavy seas during the voyage and 42 days prior to his arrival, Gabor went “off the radar” due to damaged equipment, causing him to lose all contact with the world, including his wife, Viktoria Rakonczay, who was waiting at home in Hungary.

Following his progress, Viktoria wrote on Gabor’s online blog regularly with high hopes that her husband would be OK. She wrote: “We are still unable to contact Gabor, but I do not doubt that he is making every effort he can to ensure he returns home safely.”

In addition to malfunctioning communication equipment on board the canoe, Gabor also made the journey without a satellite tracking system which would have allowed him to signal that everything was going well. He told press from the Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour, southern Antigua, that “the supplier raised the price at the last minute and I decided to leave without one because it was not possible to postpone the trip.”

“It was a great relief to reach port because it meant completing the journey and because my family could finally know for sure that I was OK,” he said.

In an attempt to attract attention in the middle of the ocean, Gabor set off smoke flares on three separate occasions to nearby ships passing by; however he was unable to reach them. “Some slowed and even changed direction as they likely picked me up on their radars. But I was often surrounded by waves four meters (12 feet) high and the canoe is less than one meter high, so it’s most likely that they simply weren’t able to see me,” Gabor said.

He said that throughout his time incommunicado, he thought of his family and friends back home and how their worries must be causing strain.

Both Gabor and Viktoria had rowed across the Atlantic together in 2008 and she always remained positive the he would complete this journey alone.

Although lone Atlantic crossings have been made in the past with rowboats and kayaks, no one had ever crossed in a canoe using only a single bladed paddle.

The unique accomplishment has now been confirmed by the Ocean Rowing Society International based in London and the Guinness World Records.