Russian rower closes on Chile

Russian rower Fedor Konyukhov is so close to the Chilean coast that plans are now being made to send a flotilla out to escort him to Cape Horn.

He is about 650km from his finishing point, and son Oscar Konyukhov said the team was ''exploring all possible options'' for meeting the Russian adventurer aboard his rowing boat, Akros.

''The primary option is to set out from the Port of Ushuaia and head east and then southwest toward Cape Horn and await Fedor at the leeward side of the island, under the cover of Horn Island.

Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov.  Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery

''Plan B is to go straight to the Pacific Ocean via the Beagle canal to the west, and to await Fedor's boat on the western shores of Chile.

''This will be the option in the event that Fedor cannot enter the Drake Passage.''

He said the project team had chartered two expeditionary yachts, Australis and Sarah W Vorwerk, to escort Akros, and would be joined by a welcoming flotilla.

On board Akros Mr Konyukhov said he was both delighted and relieved that Chile was now appearing on his computerised chart plotter.

''I can see on the screen of the onboard computer, the Chilean coast. Hooray! For me, this is a huge source of joy.

''I have been staring for 100 days at a dot (my boat) on a blue screen. New Zealand remained to the west, beyond the borders of the screen, and the Chilean coast did not appear on the monitor for 100 days.

''Now I can see the Chilean coast, and with every day, it grows closer and crawls across the onboard computer screen.''

Mr Konyukhov had planned to reach the cape by Easter, but now he estimates it could take another two weeks.

He said he had a nice surprise last Friday when a plane from the Chilean Naval Aviation search and rescue squadron - Armada de Chile - flew overhead as part of a patrol of the Southern Ocean region.

''The pilots called me on the radio ... We talked for a few minutes.

''They asked about my state of health, how much food and water I have, and how long would it take for me to reach Cape Horn ...

''In the end, the plane waved its wings and the pilots wished me a safe trip on the way to Cape Horn.

''Thank you Armada de Chile for such a visit. For 141 days I had no visual contact with any ships or aeroplanes.

''The pilots were the first people I saw from the moment of my launch from the shores of New Zealand.''

The second leg of his round-the-world journey will begin in December, from Cape Horn to Cape Leeuwin, in Western Australia, and the third will begin in December 2020, from Australia back to Dunedin.

Each leg is expected to take about 120 days.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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