Irishman nears Galway after 112 days of rowing across Atlantic from New York

Damian Browne, a former rugby player who cannot swim, is ‘incredibly excited’ as he nears his hometown

A former rugby player who cannot swim is days from completing a gruelling 5,000 km row across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to his hometown Galway.

Damian Browne, an ex-forward for Connacht and Leinster, spoke from his boat on Sunday about being “incredibly excited” as he neared the end of his extraordinary voyage.

“After 112 days of stresses, strains and doubts only an endeavour like attempting to row 3,000 miles across the unforgiving North Atlantic can elicit, I’m incredibly excited to close out this beautiful project in my hometown, surrounded by my family, friends and supporters; making my dream a reality,” he said.

Mr Browne is expected to become among the few who have rowed both ways across the vast Atlantic, having already crossed from San Sebastian to Antigua in 2018.


Before setting off on this feat, he admitted it would be the harder challenge as he was leaving behind his partner and 14-month-old daughter this time around.

With his lifelong friend Fergus Farrell, who beat the odds to recover from an accident just five years ago which had given him a 5 per cent chance of ever walking again, the pair set off from New York on June 14th.

But after a couple of weeks aboard their custom-built boat Mr Farrell was forced to pull out after suffering a tightness in his chest.

Mr Browne’s journey was also hampered by adverse weather conditions during which he had to set para-anchor for a number of days, delaying his expected homecoming by some days.

It is expected he will arrive at Galway Docks on Tuesday morning.

The feat - which Browne has dubbed Project Empower - is helping raise funds for the National Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation, Ability West, Madra and The Galway Simon Community.

“When I started out on this project some 3.5 years ago, the final destination was clear from the start; Galway. Home,” he said on Sunday.

“The great hope with this was to give the next generation of kids in the west and throughout the country a real image and touchable action to emulate and hopefully inspire them to dream big and work hard in whatever avenue of life they decide to explore.”

Before Mr Farrell had to cut short his involvement, the pair had been swapping shifts to row 24 hours a day, each only sleeping for short periods.

They packed 65 days’ worth of freeze-dried food rations, which they heated with boiling filtered ocean-water powered by solar panels before eating them.

Brian Hutton

Brian Hutton is a freelance journalist and Irish Times contributor