So Close: Ocean Rower Misses Epic Goal and Wife
Dec. 14, 2008
By Tom Fearon
ITALIAN adventurer Alexandro Bellini just wanted to hold his wife, Francesca Urso, in his arms again after spending nearly 10 months alone at sea rowing almost 18,000 kilometres across the Pacific Ocean.
Mr Bellini, 30, came agonisingly close to completing his epic goal of rowing from Peru to Australia.
Having left Lima in February, he called for help after hitting stormy weather on Friday, about 130 nautical miles north-east of Newcastle.
He had planned to reach Sydney this week.
"I've been on the verge of giving up many times but this was one of the lowest I've reached," Mr Bellini said yesterday after being reunited with his wife in Newcastle. "Being away from my wife was one of the biggest challenges. I missed her so much; seeing her again was one of the best moments of my life."
Mr Bellini docked in Newcastle Harbour aboard a New Zealand-registered tugboat, Katea, at 9.30am.
Ms Urso could not wait for the tugboat to berth and stretched out to hug her dishevelled, thin, bearded husband as the vessel was mooring.
He had been surviving on dried food and desalinated water before his voyage went awry. He had spoken to his wife regularly via satellite phone until last month, when his four-metre rowboat capsized.
Ms Urso, 29, said her husband of just over a year had a "love for the extreme" and would not let his thwarted passage to Australia stop another attempt in the future.
"This is his first time here [in Australia] and, even though not everything went to plan, I'm glad to have him back again," she said. "We were following his position hour by hour and our meteorologists warned of bad weather, including 30-knot winds. There was no reason to battle the weather."
Mr Bellini ate pizza, steak, a box of biscuits and peanut butter out of the jar when rescued on Friday night after 296 days at sea.
"Physically he seemed OK but he was very skinny," Katea's engineer, John Coulson, said. "He had a huge appetite when we rescued him. We had no idea who he was. We thought he was just some rower from New Zealand who'd got lost."
Mr Bellini crossed the Atlantic in 2005, rowing from Italy to Brazil, and has crossed Alaska twice on foot. He had planned to row through Sydney Heads and be greeted by a flotilla of spectators.
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