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Waterford Man Set to Row Across Atlantic Ocean for Charity

23rd April 2021
Réamonn Byrne with Frank Wolf, a Canadian explorer who had been on the boat’s previous expedition around the North West Passage.
Réamonn Byrne with Frank Wolf, a Canadian explorer who had been on the boat’s previous expedition around the North West Passage

A Waterford man is set to row across the Atlantic in aid of a charity that repatriates Irish people who die overseas.

Réamonn Byrne, originally from Kilmacthomas but now based in New York City, is the driving force behind ‘The Hard Way Home’ expedition, a journey to row unsupported across the North Atlantic from New York to Ireland. The team will consist of Byrne and two Americans who will row in shifts 24/7 for sixty to seventy days to make the crossing.

Waterford rower Réamonn ByrneWaterford rower Réamonn Byrne

Byrne initially had a different team and hoped to make the crossing last year but Covid restrictions meant his international teammates couldn't travel to attempt the trip. In the Shackleton tradition of 'Need Guy to Row Ocean', Byrne put an advert on an adventure forum, seeking new crew members. Chris McCaffery and Ryan Cosgro, two skilled outdoor professionals, were recruited.

While all the crew have accomplished ultra-endurance backgrounds, none have significant experience on the open water. To fill that gap, Byrne has hired Peter ‘Stokey’ Woodall who has 300,000 nautical miles under his belt, including 30 plus Atlantic crossings in a variety of craft. He’s been training the team for the past six months and will serve as a weather router and expert guide for the duration of the crossing.

Physical training for the team has consisted of lots of cardio hours and strength training to put on the weight necessary for the trip. Byrne himself has added 30 pounds to his usual running frame in preparation. The team is bringing one and half million calories on the boat to fuel the journey consisting of freeze-dried expedition meals, dried fruits, nuts, chocolate, oatmeal, jerky and various protein supplements.

Fixing the rudder at the boatyard in Far Rockaway, New YorkFixing the rudder at the boatyard in Far Rockaway, New York

"I bought the boat for $25,000 from an Irish guy in Vancouver," said Byrne. "He had built it tough to row the North-West Passage, to bump into ice floes and be pulled ashore. Turns out they didn't need it to be built that tough, and they never made it fully around the passage. "

"The boat's called Barney after my father, which was his nickname. He passed away about six months ago and didn’t really get a send-off with Covid and all so hopefully when we arrive into Dungarvan we’ll do him proud."

The journey will raise funds for the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust (KBRT), a charity that helps bereaved Irish families repatriate loved ones who are lost tragically abroad. Kevin Bell was just 26 when he died in a hit and run in Woodlawn in New York. Byrne used to live in the same neighbourhood and saw the charity as very fitting one for the journey being undertaken. “His family took something that is incredibly hard and turned it into a service that has helped hundreds of Irish families. I find the Bell family inspiring," Byrne said.

The Hard Way Home launches in mid-May when the team can get a five-day window of good weather to get offshore. To follow along with the journey, go to www.thehardwayhome.com and @thehardwayhome on Instagram where the team will be posting regular updates from the ocean. Byrne added that while he has several US sponsors, only Waterford Greenway Bike Hire is onboard from the Irish side and he would love to remedy that. All info is available on the website.

Published in Coastal Rowing
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