Transatlantic rowers who capsized off Cork coast ‘relieved’ after rescue

Mother of Irish oarsman hails ‘great escape’ from ocean

Two rowers rescued by the Irish Coast Guard when they were just 170 nautical miles off setting world records have been released from hospital.

Brian Conville (25) from Raheny in Dublin and Joseph Gagnon (20) from Quebec, Canada, were winched to safety some 165 nautical miles off the west Cork coast on Friday by the Rescue 117 Waterford-based helicopter. Both men had spent hours on their upturned boat in heavy seas awaiting rescue.

The duo had set off from St John's in Newfoundland in mid-June with the aim to become the youngest pair to complete the journey from Canada to Ireland. They planned to arrive in Crookhaven, Co Cork, late on Sunday but their vessel capsized on Friday.

They were released from University Hospital Kerry in Tralee on Saturday afternoon. They had been treated for hypothermia as well as fatigue and muscle damage.


Mr Conville’s mother, Kathy, said she was relieved that her son was unharmed in the incident.

“They are both doing very well after their great escape. When it happened we didn’t realise the extent of what was going on. When you are driving down to Kerry you aren’t thinking about the future but when I heard what had happened it was a bit alarming. But they are okay. They are chatting and are in great form.”

Ms Conville said the rowers were “disappointed” at the outcome but relieved to escape with their lives.

"We are going to stay in Killarney tonight and then we will go home to Dublin. Brian rowed from California to Hawaii last year and that was successful. He loves rowing."

Phone call

Mr Gagnon's mother Claire Martin had just flown in to Dublin from Canada when a phone call came through that a rescue mission was under way for her son and his friend.

She said: “It was a lot of stress but we were in touch and in contact with the Irish Coast Guard so we knew that they were trying to do their best. The Irish Coast Guard received a distress message from the boat so one helicopter and one plane left to try and find the guys.

“We waited for two hours with Brian’s family and then we had news that they had found the boat and it was capsized but the two boys were in contact with it.”

Mr Conville and Mr Gagnon had spent 38 days at sea and had rowed 1,495 nautical miles west to east. They had been some hours with their upturned boat when an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) attached to the craft activated.

Heavy seas are believed to have capsized the boat, which is designed to be self-righting. The pair sat on the upturned hull, and relied on the EPIRB signal to raise the alarm.

Irish Coast Guard search and rescue operations manager Gerard O’Flynn said it “highlights that if you can raise the alarm and stay afloat then you stand a very good chance of being rescued”.