Europe

Atlantic Ocean rowers rescued off Irish coast

the two men are pictured on their rowing vesell Image copyright Claire Martin
Image caption Joseph Gagnon and Brian Conville were attempting to break four world records when their boat capsized

Two ocean rowers have been rescued about 170 nautical miles from the Irish coast, after rowing across the Atlantic from Canada in a world record attempt.

Brian Conville, a 25-year-old from Dublin and 20-year-old Canadian Joseph Gagnon, were on the final stage of their journey when their boat capsized.

It happened at about 05:00 local time and they spent hours on their upturned boat in heavy seas awaiting rescue.

They were airlifted to hospital by the Irish Coast Guard.

Mr Conville's spokesman, Owen Douglas, told BBC News NI that both rowers had suffered mild hypothermia and exhaustion but were recovering well.

The pair had set off from St Johns in Newfoundland on 13 June, aiming to become the youngest pair to complete the voyage from Canada to Ireland.

For the past five weeks, they have been rowing day and night, rotating responsibility with two hour shifts on the oars.

They were aiming to arrive in Crookhaven Harbour, County Cork, late on Sunday, but stormy seas overwhelmed their vessel before dawn on Friday.

Image copyright Claire Martin
Image caption The pair (pictured before their trip) are both experienced ocean rowers

They were rescued by a Waterford-based helicopter off Mizen Head and airlifted to Tralee Hospital in County Kerry.

The men had to climb on the hull of their overturned boat and await rescue after an alarm beacon was triggered, according to Tatiana Rezvaya-Crutchlow from the Ocean Rowing Society.

She praised the actions of the Irish Coast Guard and said it was a shame the rowers were not able to complete their record attempt after "doing so well'" in their Atlantic crossing.

The pair are both experienced rowers and Ms Rezvaya-Crutchlow said they had been "very well prepared" for the crossing.

Mr Douglas said it would have taken a lot of effort to hold on to the boat for hours in rough weather conditions.

He added that the men were relieved to be safe and well, but said he expects they will feel frustrated at having come so close to reaching their goal.

Image caption The rescue helicopter set off from Waterford and airlifted the men to hospital in Tralee

He described how Mr Gagnon's parents had arrived in Dublin Airport on Friday morning and were met by Mr Conville's parents, just as news emerged that their sons' alarm beacon had been triggered.

Mr Douglas said it was a worrying time for both families until they were informed that the rescue had been successful.

The Irish Coast Guard's search and rescue 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."

Mr O'Flynn praised the work of the helicopter crew and officials at the incident control offices who provided top cover support for the rescue mission.