Hungarian sets Atlantic canoeing record

Rakonczay leaves Portugal - you can just see the paddle in his hand
Rakonczay leaves Portugal - you can just see the paddle in his hand

Hungarian canoeist Gabor Rakonczay has arrived in Antigua after the crossing the Atlantic from Portugal, the first man to do so in a canoe with a  single-bladed paddle.

The 30 year old, who set out on 21 December,  has been incommunicado for the past 76 days, after his satellite communications equipment stopped working following a capsize and many of those following his transatlantic crossing thought he’d died.

However, his wife Viktoria revealed today that he’d arrived in Antigua, almost three weeks ahead of schedule. His 25 foot-long canoe, nicknamed “Vitez,” which means “valiant” in Hungarian, was specially designed for the 3,500-mile crossing and contained all the equipment needed for the epic journey.

Rakonczay is no stranger to transatlantic crossings, having rowed across the ocean with his wife in 2008.  Rakonczay’s blog of his voyage can be found here (it’s available in English, just look for the British flag). He’s also advised Sarah Outen who is rowing/cycling and kayaking around the world.

Rakonczay’s record has been  confirmed by the Ocean Rowing Society International, which adjudicates such feats for the Guinness Book of World Records.

According to Rakonczay’s blog, he paddled between 14-16 hours a day during his voyage, sleeping 4-6 hours in short naps. Producing water required 30-40 minutes of pumping using a hand-held desalinating water making machine. Food carried was high-energy and dried so it took up the least amount of room possible and included energy bars, vitamins, supplements, chocolate and other high-energy goodies.

Equipment carried in the canoe included two carbon fibre Bracha Outrigger canoe paddles, a Katadyn 35 water maker, an Iridium satellite phone, two waterproof military notebooks, a handheld GPS, an Argos buoy (tracking system), a wind indicator, a magnetic compass, a radar reflector, position lights, a waterproof digital camera and separate videocamera, head torches, ropes, flags, batteries and GPS chart plotter.

There’s press coverage of Rakonczay’s crossing in the Daily Telegraph and the BBC. One Hungarian blogger, with tongue stuck firmly in cheek – one hopes – said some critics had implied Rakonczay’s capsize and subsequent loss of contact was to generate more post-event coverage.

It seems most unlikely, though the blogger adds: “People are already bitching that the “radio silence” was probably just a ruse to get him more attention, because if there’s one thing Hungarians love, it’s watching others fail.”

There’s a short clip of Rakonczay and his wife sailing on Youtube here:

(Picture credit: EPA)