Thinner and unsteady on their feet after 32 days at sea, pals Patrick O’Connor, Eoin O’Farrell, skipper Seán Underwood, and Thomas Browne devoured the food just moments after crossing the finish line of the 5,500km Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.
The four-man team, Relentless Rowers, arrived in Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour, Antigua, at around 5.40am local time (9.40am Irish time) 32 days, 22-hours and four minutes after setting off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on December 14.
They finished sixth overall out of a field of 26, and have become the fastest Republic of Ireland crew to row across the Atlantic — almost two days faster than the previous Irish time.
Corkmen Mr Farrell, 26, a podiatrist at CUH, Mr O’Connor, 28, a doctor and SHO in CUH’s emergency department, and Mr Underwood, a doctor in the Mercy University Hospital, who turns 26 today, and Mr Browne, a 27-year-old Dubliner and tech entrepreneur, received a hero’s welcome as they made landfall at dawn.
Speaking from the Caribbean last night, Mr Farrell said: “This was three years in planning and it was nice to finish. We all stayed friends and we didn’t have any major mishaps. We did have a partial capsize, which highlighted the vulnerability of our situation, but otherwise it all went off well.
“We saw dolphins and whales, amazing sunsets and sunrises, and caught some fish along the way. But being away from friends, family and loved ones, was tough. Spending Christmas at sea was especially tough. We had Santa hats and a small Christmas pudding on Christmas day — that’s one I’ll remember forever.
“Arriving into Antigua yesterday to be welcomed by family and friends was like a dream come true. We are physically and emotionally exhausted, but in good health otherwise.”
The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is known as the world’s toughest row.
The Relentless Rowers battled seasickness, chronic fatigue, and 40ft waves during Storms Dylan and Eleanor, and spent Christmas Day eating dried food from ration packs, as they rowed their specially-designed 28ft ocean-rowing boat, Saoirse, across the Atlantic.
A race spokesperson said they have shown that it is not only professional rowers who can cross the Atlantic in a record time.
They raised €22,000 for the Cork University Hospital Charity, and for Pieta House.
Miriam Forde, fundraising manager with the CUH charity, said they will use their portion of the money to buy equipment for phase two of the new 80-bed children’s inpatient unit due to be built at CUH.
The British team, The Four Oarsmen, won the race outright in a time of 29 days, 15 hours, breaking the previous record by six days.