French adventurer dies while rowing solo across the Atlantic, a week after celebrating 75th birthday
BORDEAUX (AFP) - A 75-year-old Frenchman attempting to row across the Atlantic "to laugh at old age" was found dead at sea on Saturday (Jan 22), his support team said.
Portuguese coastguard found Jean-Jacques Savin's overturned boat off the Azores archipelago on Friday.
They were able to send a diver down on Saturday to search it, his team added.
The former paratrooper's body "was found lifeless inside the cabin", they said.
The avid triathlete set off from mainland Portugal's southern tip on Jan 1, but there had been no contact with him since Friday, when he activated two distress beacons.
In 2019 he had crossed the Atlantic alone in a custom-built barrel, a 127-day trip followed by thousands on Facebook.
Mr Savin was hoping again to reach the Caribbean, this time in a rowing boat eight metres long and 1.70m wide, with a rowing station at its centre.
In a previous update, his team had said that early on Friday he activated "two distress beacons, telling us he was 'in great difficulty'."
His daughter in a Facebook post said a search operation "was immediately set in motion in coordination with the French, Portuguese and US sea rescue services".
Mr Savin had been north of Madeira, Portuguese islands off the northwest coast of Africa, on his way to Ponta Delgada in the Azores.
Shortly after leaving, unfavourable wind conditions had forced the adventurer to extend his trip by 900km.
'Off on holiday'
On Wednesday, he had reported "strong swell and... wind" on Facebook, adding that he had been forced to switch from using an electric water desalinator to a backup one operated by hand.
"It's costing me physical energy," he wrote.
But "be assured, I am not in danger".
Mr Savin, who said rowing across the Atlantic was a way to "laugh at old age", had celebrated his 75th birthday the previous Friday, on board his two-cabin boat.
It was carrying 300kg of equipment, including freeze-dried food, a spear gun to fish and a heater, as well as the two desalinators.
To celebrate his birthday, he had also brought along his mandolin, foie gras and champagne.
"I'm off on holiday to the open sea," he had said before leaving.
"I will row eight hours a day and when the wind blows too hard, I'll close myself in," he said.
After returning from his last trip, he had written a book to recount his journey.
Later, when the coronavirus pandemic hit, he gave advice to fellow Frenchmen on how to avoid cabin fever during stay-home periods.
"Everyone needs to embrace their passion... Start drawing, learn to play the harmonica, if it doesn't bother the neighbours," he said.
He said he appreciated the solitude of his 2019 trip, adrift in a barrel on the ocean.
"I wrote my journal, I read a lot, I exercised," he said.
Through a porthole in the floor, he was able to admire passing schools of fish. And sometimes, he spotted dolphins.