Athy’s ‘Naked Adventurer’ Keith Whelan was rescued off the coast of Australia last week during his attempt to be the youngest man, and first Irishman, to row solo across the Indian Ocean.
“Worst 48 hours imaginable but I am fine,” Mr Whelan posted on his Facebook page. “Gutted is not the word for how I feel right now. But happy to be in one piece.”
30-year-old Mr Whelan got into difficulty on Tuesday night when a large wave hit his vessel and threw him across a sleeping cabin, cutting his head on a bolt. He managed to treat himself to stop the bleeding before using a satellite phone to contact a friend in the UK, who alerted the Australian authorities. At 200km offshore, Perth Search and Rescue issued an alert and diverted a nearby cargo ship to pick him up.
A spokeswoman for Mr Whelan said he rang his parents the minute he was rescued and he is OK now. “Knowing Keith he is going to be really disappointed. He will try it again but it depends on the damage to the boat. He will be determined to continue again. His parents are OK. They were shocked and were constantly worrying about him anyway. They are really disappointed for him but Keith is very determined and will try the challenge again depending on the damage to the boat.”
Mr Whelan, a freelance events manager from Athy, is attempting to cross the Indian Ocean – about 6,000km – alone for the Keep a Child Alive charity for children and families affected by HIV/Aids in Africa and India.
His journey began on May 7th and has been hampered by bad weather conditions since. His boat is only 7m long, and his sleeping cabin, in which he took refuge from a storm when the accident took place, is only 2m long and 1m tall. The boat is designed to upright itself automatically in the event it is capsized in a storm.
On his blog, The Naked Adventurer, he stressed that rowing naked is neither a gimmick nor an act of madness. “As the ocean is a very salty environment, clothing tends to become encrusted with salt. I will have no means of cleaning this from any clothing at sea, so wearing this clothing when full of salt would lead to severe salt sores on my body which is why I will be naked for most of the journey,” he said before setting sail on his voyage on 7 May.
He also explains why he took up the challenge. “At first I thought this was complete madness but at the same time it appealed to me,” he said. “I am a risk taker and risking your life to achieve a dream is the biggest risk you can take.
“Some might say it’s foolish but to my mind it is only foolish if you don’t know the risks and you don’t prepare for them and train for every possible scenario.”
As it stands, the challenge has been postponed and Keith and his boat are in transit home. Writing on his blog Keith said he was grateful for all the support: “Relieved that my boat is back in dry land. Thanks to everyone at the port here in Bunbury for all their help and indeed to Bunbury crane hire. Now to get her shipped back home.”
Many people from Athy have left messages of support for Mr Whelan. “Glad u are OK Keith!!!!. Get plenty of rest!!!. You should be so proud of what you have achieved!!!. We are all so proud of you. X” and “As Shackleton said: “better a live donkey than a dead lion”. Well done on the adventure mate. Looking forward to hearing about it all when ya back. Well done again buddy and chat soon.”