7-person rowing team crosses Indian Ocean

NAIROBI, Kenya — The skipper of a seven-man rowing crew on the cusp of setting an Indian Ocean speed record said Thursday his team is looking forward to getting their feet dry on the island nation of the Seychelles after 57 days on the water.

Skipper Leven Brown said in an interview by satellite phone from his 44-foot ocean rowing boat that his team outmaneuvered hurricane-force winds, successfully evacuated a member of the team who burned himself while cooking, and hit a blue whale with their boat.

The team covered 4,578 miles, starting from Geraldton, Australia in June, and will reach Mahe, Seychelles later Thursday.

As the boat approached the Seychelles and East Africa’s waters in general, the team had the potential of a Somali pirate attack on their minds. On Wednesday they were approached by three fishing vessels, but all were friendly, Brown said. Team members never slept for more than two hours at a time, so fatigue is an issue.

The Ocean Rowing Society will confirm the exact timing of landfall to record the apparent record-breaking time. Brown said mid-Thursday that the team was on course to break it and that he didn’t foresee any problems ahead.

“You get out of the boat and you always swear that you’ll never do this again. But this is my fifth time. I’ve spent almost a year at sea between all of my expeditions,” he said.

The international crew is raising money for several charities, including Save The Elephants, Multiple Sclerosis Research Australia, and the Fiann Paul Foundation. Brown said the last four similar voyages he has undertaken have raised more than $1.6 million.

As the boat approached the Seychelles on Thursday, Brown said the island nation rose out of the water like a scene from the TV show “Lost.”

“There is a great draw back to the oceans. It’s a wonderful environment, one of the world’s most pristine wilderness settings. … But we are very glad to have Seychelles in front of us.”

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