A LITTLE piece of sporting history left Limerick this week, after record-breaking rower Sean McGowan sold his vessel to an American buyer.
His beloved vessel Tess, which saw him row solo across the Atlantic Ocean in May 2010, will leave from Dublin in a container to Southampton in the UK, and eventually find its new home in Connecticut before Christmas.
Numerous appeals were made to Limerick City Council to purchase the boat and keep it in Limerick for historic appeals, however the council said no funding was available for this purpose.
Mr McGowan, from Farranshone, said it was a “sad day” to finally bid farewell to Tess, which saw him safely land in the Caribbean after 118 days at sea, but added “it had to happen some day”.
He said he had to sell the boat, which cost £20,000, for financial reasons, and it was sold for just under €20,000.
The American buyer, John Bauby, travelled to Ireland to see the boat three weeks ago, following interest from five men across the world, who are keen rowers.
Mr Bauby, who is also a diver, plans to use Tess to set his own record - in becoming the first American to row the North Atlantic solo in 2013.
“It’s a little bit of history really and a fitting end to the year as Limerick was the European City of Sport this year. She’s a good boat and she’s doing what she’s intended to do, which is row an ocean.
“A chapter has been closed now; my days of ocean rowing are finished. I have no plans of going to sea again, none” he told the Limerick Leader.
“I had a few people that wanted to buy her, but I held on and held on, but eventually I had to sell her,” he said.
However, a part of his epic lone voyage will remain in Limerick. One of the oars he used, which racked up 1.7 million strokes, is now proudly displayed over the bar in Dolan’s on the Dock Road. Proprietor Mick Dolan is a friend of Mr McGowan’s and the venue also hosted numerous fundraisers during his trip, with €23,000 raised for an African charity, the Soweto Connection.
He is currently writing a book of his journey from La Gomera in the Canaries to Antigua in the Caribbean, and for his next big challenge he is contemplating trekking across Greenland.
In the meantime, he and a group of local men are planning to cycle around Ireland over three weeks next April. As part of that challenge, all participants have to bring their own food and tents with them, and are only allowed to buy water.
A coach with Shannon Rowing Club, he appealed to young people to take up the sport. “Their parents don’t have to be worried about me dragging them across an ocean, it’s just local rowing,” he reassured.