French adventurer dies after attempting to row solo across the Atlantic

Jean-Jacques Savin, shown in May at age 74, tests his rowboat at a shipyard in Lege-Cap-Ferret, southwestern France.Jean-Jacques Savin, shown in May at age 74, tests his rowboat at a shipyard in Lege-Cap-Ferret, southwestern France.

Jean-Jacques Savin, a 75-year-old French adventurer who was attempting to row across the Atlantic Ocean solo, has disappeared after sending distress signals last week, authorities said Sunday.

The Portuguese coast guard found Savin’s boat, a specially built capsule, overturned near the Azores, the Portuguese archipelago, on Friday.

Savin’s team had posted a statement on Facebook early Sunday saying he had been found dead in the boat. But later Sunday, the Portuguese Navy said no body had been found, and his team posted a message from his daughter saying she had been informed that he had not been recovered.

Savin activated distress beacons Thursday night into Friday morning, his team said. Manon Savin, his daughter, said the beacons signaled a situation of “great difficulty,” and French, Portuguese and American officials were immediately alerted.Savin had activated his distress beacons Thursday night into Friday morning, and the Portuguese coast guard found his boat Friday.

Portuguese authorities launched a search and rescue operation late Thursday, the Portuguese Navy said in a news release. Eleven merchant ships, three Portuguese aircraft and a Portuguese naval ship joined the effort.

Savin departed from Portugal Jan. 1 in what he described as his “last challenge at sea”: rowing across the Atlantic from Portugal to the Caribbean. The journey was estimated to take about 100 days, he celebrated his 75th birthday on Jan. 14.

In his last Facebook post before sending the distress signals, Savin said his solar power device, used to charge the machine that desalinated his drinking water, was not working, forcing him to use a manual device that “costs me physical energy.”

“Don’t worry, I’m not in danger!” he wrote. He noted a forecast of strong swells and winds but expressed optimism that the winds would help push him toward the Azores.

He said his morale was “very good.”

A successful journey this time would have made Savin the oldest person to row across the Atlantic solo, according to Guinness World Records. The current record holder is Graham Walters, a British man who made the trip in April 2020 at age 72.

In his last dispatch, Savin said that “after long reflection, I continue this adventure which I think will be exceptional.”

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