Record breaking Dublin rower to speak in Dun Laoghaire

by Rebecca Ryan
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Relentless Rowers, Thomas Browne, Sean Underwood, Patrick O’Connor and Eoin O’Farrell completed the world’s toughest row in record time

A Dublin man is speaking at the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire on June 7 on his experience completing the world’s toughest row in record time.

Thomas Browne (27) from Terenure set off with three rowers from Cork, Sean Underwood, Patrick O’Connor and Eoin O’Farrell on December 14 2017 from La Gomera in the Canary Islands for the 5,500km Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

The four-man crew, Relentless Rowers, crossed the finish line in Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour, Antigua, 32 days, 22-hours and four minutes later.

The Relentless Rowers finished sixth overall out of a field of 26, becoming the fastest Republic of Ireland crew to complete the epic challenge.

The British team, The Four Oarsmen, won the race in a time of 29 days, 15 hours, breaking the previous record by six days.

Relentless Rowers raised €22,000 for Pieta House and Cork University Hospital.

Thomas told Dublin Gazette he never rowed before but when he read a book about an Irish man who rowed across the Atlantic he fell in love with the idea.

One of his friends, a sailor, then connected Thomas with the three rowers from Cork and he said they got on like “a house on fire”.

For about a year, the dedicated Dubliner travelled to Cork most weekends to train with the others for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

During the challenge, the Relentless Rowers constantly battled with sea sickness, sleep deprivation, hallucinations, hunger, chronic fatigue, salt sores and the physical extremes that the row inflicted.

Thomas told us about the extremes: “Your sleeping patterns are so thrown. You get about 90 minutes sleep and then you row for two hours. It’s like that 24/7, day and night.

“I wasn’t sleeping that much, and I was always hungry. It would go from very hot during the day to very cold at night so your whole system is put out of whack.

“With the hallucinations, I kept thinking I was rowing down an aisle in Tesco and all my favourite food was there. And the other hallucination I had was, I would see a rabbit whenever I was trying to get some sleep.

“We were warned the conditions would be horrific and very tough, but no words could really prepare you for it.”

Thomas said the toughest moment during the challenge was when the boat capsized during the storm and he was thrown into the sea. He told us there was a moment he thought he was going to die.

“The winds were so strong, and the waves were so big. On the night of the 23rd it [the storm] was at its worst and it caught up with us.

“The waves were terrifying, and it was a cloudy night, so we couldn’t see where the waves were coming from.

“One wave picked us up and our daggerboard snapped. Pat and I were thrown into the sea. The boat raised itself back again, but it was terrifying trying to get back on the boat and ride out the storm. For 10 or 15 seconds when I was in the water I thought that was it.”

The Atlantic offered a world of extreme experiences but there were also wonderful experiences, from sea wildlife to stunning sunsets and sunrises.

Thomas shared with us his favourite moment of the challenge.

“When we landed in Antigua that was incredible. But also, there was one moment when we were about half way across.

“The pain was really setting in, we had about another 1,500 miles to go and a pod of dolphins came to visit us. You kind of get caught up in a monotonous routine but when the dolphins came we all just stopped. It was a very special moment.”

The Dubliner said his favourite thing about coming home was seeing his family and eating food.

“When I first came off the boat the one craving I had was for Tayto crisps and Rock Shandy and my mum had that at Antigua which was brilliant!

“But in a more deep and meaningful way, you miss your family and friends. I had dinner with my mum and dad there on Tuesday and sometimes you can take those things for granted.”

So, what’s next for Thomas Browne? He has been working recently between the UK and Ireland doing consulting work for start-up companies, but the ambitious man, who has previously studied in DCU, is heading back to college in September to study medicine in the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland.

He is also training at the moment in hopes of swimming across the English Channel in two years’ time, although he has yet to break the news to his mother!

Thomas will be sharing his incredible experience in the National Yacht Club Dun Laoghaire hosted by the Rotary Club on June 7 2018 at 7.30pm. It is a free event and open to the public.

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