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Bordeaux (AFP) – A 75-year-old Frenchman trying to row across the Atlantic has not given any sign of life since Friday morning when he was near the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira, his friends said on Saturday.
Former skydiver and keen triathlete Jean-Jacques Savin set off from the southern tip of mainland Portugal on January 1, hoping to reach the Caribbean.
It was just his latest adventure after crossing the Atlantic solo in a custom-built barrel in 2019, a 127-day journey followed by thousands on Facebook.
“We are very worried,” a team of volunteers based in France told AFP after their odyssey in a statement.
“We haven’t heard from him since 12:34 a.m. yesterday (Friday) morning”, when he released “two distress beacons, telling us he was in ‘great trouble'”.
Her daughter said in a Facebook post that a search operation “was immediately launched in coordination with the French, Portuguese and American sea rescue services”.
It was last heard north of the Madeira Islands off the northwest coast of Africa and was heading towards Ponta Delgada in the Portuguese Azores archipelago.
Shortly after setting out on January 1, unfavorable wind conditions forced the adventurer to extend his journey by 900 kilometers (550 miles).
On Wednesday, he reported “heavy swells and… wind” on Facebook, adding that he had been forced to switch from an electric watermaker to a manually operated emergency one.
“It costs me physical energy,” he writes. But “don’t worry, I’m not in danger”.
Savin, who said rowing across the Atlantic was a way of “laughing at old age”, celebrated his 75th birthday aboard his two-cabin canoe last Friday.
The vessel, which is eight meters long and 1.70 meters wide, has a rowing station at its center.
He left with 300 kilos (660 pounds) of equipment, including freeze-dried food, a spear gun for fishing and a stove, as well as the two watermakers.
To celebrate his birthday, he had also brought his mandolin, his foie gras and his champagne.
“I’m going on vacation offshore,” he said before leaving.
“I will row eight hours a day and when the wind blows too hard I will lock myself in,” he said.
He was eagerly awaiting an extra security measure he didn’t have on his last barrel roll: a tracker to make him visible to the radars of passing freighters.
© 2022 AFP