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Capsized rowers grateful for 'flawless' rescue in Atlantic

Just weeks away from completing a record-setting expedition across the Atlantic Ocean, two American and two Canadian rowers had to be rescued on their 73rd day at sea when their boat flipped over. NBC's Matt Lauer reports.

Two days after rogue waves ended their bid for a record-setting journey across the Atlantic, four rowers are grateful to be back on dry land.

Jordan Hanssen, Patrick Fleming, Adam Kreek and Markus Pukonen were attempting to set a Guinness world record for an unassisted, human-powered row across the Atlantic Ocean. The 4,000-mile journey started in Senegal on Jan. 23 and ended about 400 miles north of Puerto Rico on Saturday when two rogue waves capsized their boat.

Fortunately, the rowers were located by the U.S. Coast Guard and then picked up and brought to safety by an 800-foot cargo ship in the area. On TODAY Monday, the four spoke with Matt Lauer from Puerto Rico about their ordeal.

“We’re feeling great,’’ Hanssen said. “We had a good night’s sleep last night and a good night’s sleep on the vessel Heijin that rescued us along with the United States Coast Guard. First off, huge thanks to them for a flawless rescue.’’

The crew had been at sea for 73 days, battling nasty weather, broken oars, sleep deprivation and malfunctioning technology, when a pair of rogue waves caught them in the middle of a shift change and capsized their 29-foot ocean rowboat.


Four rescued rowers describe their ordeal to Matt Lauer on TODAY.

“It was rough that morning,’’ Hanssen said. “We were rowing into a counter current. We had about 18-20 knots of wind behind us. We rowed in seas about twice this size before and the waves were about two meters, and we were in the middle of a shift change.

“As we were rowing along, two sets of waves came up right behind us. I turned the stern of the boat towards the waves, which is the safest position for the boat when we’re rowing along like that. That first wave hit and kind of overwhelmed the stern and drove the bow down into the water a little bit and to the side. There was a wave right behind that, so the stern dipped down again, and because we were a little bit on the side, the stern lifted up, and on that second wave, it drove it into that wave that was so close that it just hit us, and we rolled over and got inverted.’’

The four men were in the water with life vests for about five minutes before all their rescue beacons activated. Ten minutes later they were in a life raft, according to Hanssen.

While Hanssen said he and his teammates are “absolutely’’ going to attempt the journey again, Kreek will not be part of the next try. The next adventure for Kreek, a Canadian Olympic gold medalist, will be much tamer.

“I’m not trying this again anytime soon,’’ Kreek told Lauer. “I’ve got a wife who’s seven months pregnant at home and a 2 ½-year-old son, so the next adventure for me will be driving around in an RV visiting parks. I’m really excited for that.”

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