Wickham rower quits Indian Ocean attempt after rescue drama

Ashley Wilson during training for his rowing attempt across the Indian Ocean
Ashley Wilson during training for his rowing attempt across the Indian Ocean

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IT WAS dubbed ‘Nothing’s Impossible’.

But an explorer has been forced to scrap his world record attempt to row across the Indian Ocean after having to be rescued during his bid.

Scout volunteer Ashley Wilson, with friend and scouting ambassador James Ketchell, planned to row across the Indian Ocean. But strong winds saw their boat get into difficulty just 72 hours into the attempt.

Ashley, 35, has now changed his focus and said he will set about raising awareness of the three charities he was rowing for – Young Epilepsy, Scouts and the Elifar Foundation – in less riskier ways.

He said: ‘I hope that I can keep raising awareness for my charities. I’d like to do some public speaking, raising awareness in schools.’

Ashley, from Wickham, and James wanted to reach the Mauritian town of Port Louis, which lies on the opposite side of the Indian Ocean from Australia, in under 85 days, two hours and five minutes – the current world record.

For the first three days their journey went well. They had a good pace and had spotted dolphins and a whale.

On the fourth day, though, the weather began to deteriorate.

At 8am the next morning, the pair were forced to activate their emergency personal location beacon after their rowing boat violently rolled a number of times.

Ashley, who was diagnosed with epilepsy as a child, received a concussive blow to the head and dislocated his shoulder.

It was at this point, 175km west of Kalbarri, that James made the decision to bring in outside help and by 1.30pm the same day merchant oil vessel Dubai Charm had reached the pair.

They were given medical attention on board and taken back to Australia. Ashley flew home the same day, whereas James decided to stay for a few more weeks and he may try the row again.

Ashley is now recovered and is returning to normal life.

Although they were unable to finish their trip, Ashley is still happy with his effort and the coverage it gained for the charities, but said he had no plans to attempt it again.

‘Even if I wanted to try again, the boat’s adrift in the middle of the ocean so we’d have to find it first!’ he said.