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Two Teams Drop Out of Rowing Race

October 13, 1997

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ Just a day after the start of the world’s first trans-Atlantic rowing race, two teams dropped out Monday _ an American crew suffering from food poisoning and a British entry that ran into technical problems.

American rower Victoria Murden was delirious as she was taken on a stretcher from her rowboat, which was tugged back to the starting line.

``It was a little rough. I’ve got IVs in me, but I’m feeling better,″ Murden, of Louisville, Ky., said from her hospital room.

She and teammate Louise Graff, of Charleston, S.C., said they plan to restart the 2,700-mile race in a couple of days, after Murden recovers.

Race organizers said that in order to qualify, the Americans must begin at the starting line at Tenerife, one of Spain’s Canary Islands off northwest Africa.

Of the 30 two-person teams that started the race in the 24-foot boats, the one rowed by Carl Clinton and John Searson, both Britons, was ahead late Monday, said Teresa Evans, a spokeswoman for The Challenge Business Ltd., which organized the race.

According to the Ocean Rowing Society, there have been 53 ocean-crossing attempts _ 24 have been successful, and six rowers have died.

The death rate for those attempting the feat is about one in nine, it said.

In addition to the American casualty, technical problems prompted a British team to abandon the race Monday.

``I’m gutted,″ said British rower Ian Chater. ``But I made a promise to my rowing partner’s wife and to my kids that we’d get back safe, and I kept it.″

Chater, of Woodbridge, said he and Nigel Garbett rowed back to Tenerife after their global positioning system failed just hours into the race. The team also had problems with an extra load of drinking water that made the boat clumsy in the high seas.

The GPS tells the rowers where they are, and is especially critical in the race because once the rowers leave the Canary Islands, there is no landfall to use as a reference point until the West Indies.

The team had a backup GPS but was concerned about having to last the remainder of the two-month _ or longer _ voyage without a fallback system, Chater said in a phone interview.

Except for a sleeping compartment in the stern of the boats that is 6 feet, 6 inches long and a forward storage area, the vessels _ made from mahogany plywood _ are open to the elements.

The boats carry inflatable life rafts. Each team prepared and carries its own food. Onboard desalinators provide drinking water. If they break down, each boat carries 150 liters of bottled water as ballast.

Two yachts making the crossing are on standby for emergencies.

On Monday, rower David Riches, a London schoolteacher, was reportedly ill and there were tentative plans to evacuate him from his boat. His partner, Peter Haining, a Londoner who rowed for Britain in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, may continue the race alone, said Kenneth Crutchlow, executive director of the London-based Ocean Rowing Society, who is monitoring the race from Tenerife.

Sir Chay Blyth, who rowed across the Atlantic in 1966 and who launched the BT Global Challenge round-the-world yachting race in 1994, organized the Atlantic Rowing Race. The Challenge Ltd, based in Cornwall, England, is his company.


Race updates available on Internet on http://www.challengebus.co.uk and http://www.oceanrowing.com. Murden’s and Graff’s web page is http://www.adept.net/americanpearl

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