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Distraught rower: If I lose my boat then I have lost everything

A rower says he faces losing everything after he dramatically ended his attempt to row single-handed across the Atlantic.

adrift: Niall Macdonald pictured on board his craft, Alliance Trust.
adrift: Niall Macdonald pictured on board his craft, Alliance Trust.

Niall Iain Macdonald was forced to abandon his attempt to row 3400 miles from New York to his home town of Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides - named NY2SY - after he suffered a damaged back and cut head.

The 40-year-old contacted a control centre at Falmouth in Cornwall on Friday by satellite phone to say he had got into difficulties.

The US Coastguard sent a vessel to rescue him about 50 miles off the coast and in thick fog. He was taken back to New York where he was treated in the Bayonne Medical Center in New Jersey before being discharged.

His 24-foot boat, Alliance Trust, is still adrift in the Atlantic. Mr Macdonald said he is hoping to retrieve it, admitting: "I have invested all my money in the boat; if I lose her then I have lost everything."

Inverness-born Mr Macdonald said it had been "an intense and dramatic time".

"I am only now processing the events of the last 24 hours and coming to terms with the fact that my NY2SY Solo North Atlantic Row has come to such a premature end," he said.

"At about 4pm on Friday, nine days into my row, I had just finished stowing my oars and was getting ready to get into the cabin to get some sleep when I was hit by a wave on the starboard beam that caused me to lose my balance and fall.

"This wave caught me unawares and the boat seemed to just drop down straight off the back of it, instead of sliding down, and this sudden jolt threw me into one of the oar storage stanchions, where I hit my head."

He said he knew instantly from the pain in my lower back that he was in trouble.

He continued: "I was in terrible pain and even the smallest movement was causing me to call out. It was clear that I wasn't going to be able to continue rowing and that I may well have suffered a serious spinal injury. Given the circumstances, I felt that the only option was to call the Coastguard and ask for help.

"Once I reached the hospital at 6am the next day I had a series of tests and scans and it was found, thankfully, that my spine was not damaged but that I had suffered from an acute muscle spasm in my lower back."

The Coastguard were unable to retrieve his boat and it remains adrift on the Atlantic Ocean.

Mr Macdonald added: "All my belongings are still on board and I have invested all my money in the boat. If I lose her then I have lost everything. I have already contacted several boat charter companies, as well as other contacts that I have here in the marine business, to see what can be done before she drifts too far from the land to be able to retrieve.

"I will now speak with my various sponsors. I am so sorry that I was unable to complete my row. I can't really describe what it is like to have worked so hard to get to the start of NY2SY and then for it to end like this. I'm heartbroken. It was always going to be a hard challenge but I was ready for it and prepared to take it on. I never envisaged it ending in this way.

"Again, I am just so sorry."

He had hoped to raise £100,000 for the Scottish Association for Mental Health from his row. The charity choice is in recognition of the breakdown that Mr Macdonald suffered in 2007 when he went missing for several days, sparking a police hunt.

Mr Macdonald was due to ship his boat out to New York at the end of April last year to begin the attempt the following month, but funding and other problems meant it was the second year in a row that the adventurer had called off the bid.

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