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Set out from Portugal in early March – Arrived to a changed world in French Guiana on Sunday

On 4 March. Faroese ocean rower Livar Nysted and four others set out from Portimão, Portugal for French Guiana. Livar Nysted was called to join the crew last minute after another member had to cancel due to a back injury. The journey (about 3.700 nautical miles) was estimated to take between 50 – 60 days, and the current record for that particular crossing was 49 days.

– It would be fun if we could beat that, so I’d have set yet another record. But that is not the goal – it never is, Livar Nysted, who currently hold five world records, told Portal.fo shortly before his departure.

On Sunday, April 26th, the crew arrived at their destination after a 54 day long journey, and they returned to a changed world, one taken over by the novel coronavirus.

– When we left Portugal in early March we’d perhaps heard of corona. We were still able to travel as we pleased, the virus did not limit us. But now, when we arrived in South America, we came back to a different world, and it felt weird, Livar Nysted told Portal.fo on Monday.

But the coronavirus did affect their journey. The crew realized this when they stopped by the Canary Islands to make a few repairs and in Cape Verde, when they stopped for water. They were not allowed to go to shore on Cape Verde, and they were not allowed to leave either. In the end the crew had to sneak away in the middle of the night.

On 12 April, a shark attack destroyed the rudder, slowing down the crew, which had about 900 nautical miles left. In order to reach the shore before they ran out of provisions, the crew gave up on rowing and decided to use a sail instead. The crew managed to keep themselves fed by catching a lot of fish.

The reception on Cayenne, French Guiana was a lot friendlier than the one they’d gotten on Cape Verde.

– Because we’d been at sea for so long we were not required to go into quarantine upon arrival. But it is a bit weird. When we arrived at the hotel there was a man there to greet us and on instinct I held out my hand in greeting, but he quickly told us that he was not allowed to shake hands. We really have to get used to the fact that life has changed a lot since we set out, says Livar Nysted.

The crew has been staying at a hotel, which had otherwise closed due to the virus outbreak.

– There is no staff. Everything is closed. But we’re allowed to stay here and we’ve been granted access to the kitchen so we can cook food for ourselves. It’s very strict here. We are allowed to go down to our boat, to shop for groceries and to go for a run if we need to, but every time we go outside we have to fill out a form to show authorities what our business is, Livar Nysted says.

– Right now we don’t know how we’re going to get home. There are not many flights between here and Europe, but there are bound to be some, so I have to figure out a way to come back home to my family in the Faroe Islands, he says, adding that the trip was a good one.

– I’m very satisfied. It was very exciting and at times demanding, but all in all it was a good trip, he says.

In January 2021, Livar Nysted plans to set out on his first solo trip across the Atlantic. A full interview, in which he discusses his upcoming trip, will be published in the Local.fo newspaper later this year.


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