Scots rower abandons transatlantic trip attempt

Niall Iain Macdonald, pictured before a previous attempt to cross the Atlantic. Picture: Greg Macvean
Niall Iain Macdonald, pictured before a previous attempt to cross the Atlantic. Picture: Greg Macvean
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A SCOTTISH rower has been forced to abandon his bid to cross the Atlantic single-handed after suffering a back injury.

Niall Iain Macdonald was attempting to row 3,400 miles from New York to his home in Stornoway to raise money for a mental health charity. He alerted US Coastguards to his condition just before 8.30pm on Friday evening.

It is understood he was hurt after falling on his 24-foot yacht, the Alliance Trust, around 100 miles off the coast of Shinnecock, New York.

Tracking information on Macdonald’s website showed he attempted to head back to shore but, while just over 50 miles from land, the 39-year-old Gaelic radio presenter and producer contacted a control centre at Falmouth in Cornwall by satellite phone to report difficulties.

They relayed a call to the US Coast Guard.

A statement read: “A Coast Guard flight surgeon was consulted and recommended that the rower be medivaced due to his injuries.”

According to a spokeswoman for the UK Coastguard, Mr Macdonald injured his back in a fall.

She added: “We passed the information on to RCC (Coastguard Rescue Co-ordination Centre) in Norfolk, our counterparts in the USA.”

Mr Macdonald is now being treated at the Bayonne Medical Center in New Jersey.

A spokeswoman said: “Niall Iain is very stable. He is currently undergoing an x-ray. He has a small laceration on his head, and is experiencing back pain.”

Mr Macdonald’s specialist row boat was abandoned at sea and is now drifting in the Atlantic.

His adventure, which was expected to take three months to complete, has been hit by a series of setbacks.

In his most recent online diary post on Tuesday, Macdonald said he was facing the most testing conditions he had seen so far, but that he felt safe.

He added: “I’ve been stuck on the sea anchor due to a strong wind from the south. The seas had been building steadily during yesterday evening and it eventually became pointless to keep rowing as my oars were spending more time in the air than in the water.

“I am taking some big waves on my starboard beam and this causes the boat to roll badly, even with all the ballast I have.

“These are easily the most testing conditions that I have been in so far and it’s good experience for me as I am sure they won’t be the worst. I feel safe here on ‘Alliance Trust’, she is solid and secure.”

Macdonald had hoped to raise £100,000 for the Scottish Association for Mental Health.