Atlantic Rower Forced To Give Up

The boat Tori Murden lived, rowed, and slept in for 85 days is expected to make it to the coast of France as she planned, or perhaps England or Ireland, sometime in the next few weeks. But Murden won't be aboard. Not this time.

After Hurricane Danielle capsized her American Pearl 11 times during the night Sunday, Murden gave up and headed back to the United States aboard the bulk carrier Independent Spirit.

Murden, 35, had less than 1,000 miles of the 3,635-mile trek to go in her 23-foot-long, 6-foot-wide vessel. She was trying to become the first woman and the first American to make such a trip across the Atlantic.

"In the process of all these capsizes and very high seas, she was knocked around in the cabin," Kevin Plagman of Sector Sport Watches, one of Murden's sponsors, said Monday night. "The cabin is very small, and in high seas, she kind of needs to hang on for her life. It's like being on the inside of a rattle or something."

Murden, who suffered head and shoulder injuries, set off her emergency beacon at 4:45 a.m. GMT Monday, Plagman said.

A Royal Air Force plane from Scotland spotted her, and the Cyprus-registered Independent Spirit diverted course to answer the distress signal, Plagman said. The vessel reached her early Monday afternoon about 950 miles west of Brest, France, her destination.

"At some point after the hurricane passed, she pretty much made up her mind that she could not continue on physically," Plagman said.

Murden was expected to arrive in Philadelphia, the Independent Spirit's original destination, sometime next weekend.

The rower, who left Nags Head, N.C., on June 14 and expected to reach Brest later this month or early next month, had spoken to two or three people from her support team after the rescue, Plagman said.

"She reported she was OK. She was in pretty good spirits," he said. "She said that she was all battered and bruised and felt like she had just gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson."

The American Pearl capsized twice when it encountered the remnants of Hurricane Bonnie last week. With another hurricane possibly ahead of her, Murden decided not to continue the effort, Plagman said.

The high seas prevented the boat from being salvaged, but Plagman said it would likely show up eventually in Ireland, England, or France.

"As these things go, they're usually recovered," he said. "...The boats all seem to make it."

Kenneth Crutchlow, executive director of Britain's Ocean Rowing Society, who had been monitoring Murden's progress, told the Press Association in London: "She has made a logical decision to abandon her trip, though she will be feeling bitterly disappointed.

"She has had some very bad luck after coming up against part of two hurricanes back to back. She still had around 1,000 miles to go and the rate she was going, it would have taken her at least another mont."

Early in her journey, Murden's satellite communication system malfunctioned, preventing any direct communications with land.

She was the first woman to climb Mount Lewis in the Antarctic and the first woman and first American to ski to the geographic South Pole.

Only five men have crossed the Atlantic from west to east. Six died trying.

Plagman said no one would be surprised if Murden attempted the trip again. "She's a very determined woman," he said.

Written by Beth Campbell