Transatlantic rower found dead on boat while attempting charity challenge

David Holt

A 54-year-old British man has been found dead on his boat after falling ill while attempting to row across the Atlantic to raise money for charity.

Michael Holt, from Porthmadog in North Wales, set off from Gran Canaria on 27 January, aiming to reach Barbados and raise money for the charity Mind and Liverpool Charity and Voluntary Services.

Around 700 miles into the challenge, Holt, who had type 1 diabetes, fell ill. On 20 February, as he passed Cape Verde, he told his support team he was feeling unwell, suspecting a reaction to antibiotics. He aborted the journey and started heading towards the nearest land, 300 nautical miles south, at São Vicente.

He had not communicated with the shore team for several days, while authorities arranged for a good samaritan vessel to divert. On 25 February, he was found dead in the cabin of his boat, named Mynadd, by the crew of a fishing boat that had sailed to assist him.

Holt’s death was confirmed in a statement made by his brother, David Holt, on Facebook.

‘We have been working tirelessly to get help to Michael over the past four days but have found it incredibly difficult to do so,’ the statement says. ‘Last night the fishing vessel Noruego accepted a tasking from Cape Verde Joint Rescue Coordination Centre and made directly for Michael’s coordinates.

‘Very sadly, upon arrival, Michael was found dead inside his cabin.

‘Of course, this was not the ultimate conclusion we were looking for, but I am somewhat comforted knowing he died doing something he absolutely wanted to do with a passion and managed to row in excess of 700 miles in the process. An achievement in itself.’

David Holt says the news has come as a “huge shock” to the family, and thanked well-wishers for messages of condolence.

A crowdfunding page to raise money to support the repatriation of Holt from Cape Verde, to his family in the UK, has been launched.

The appeal clarifies that Holt ‘took considerable measures to limit any issues’, including a 12V fridge built into his boat for his insulin, automatic blood monitoring in his arm, and 24-hour telephone support. However, the risk involved in his journey was such that he was uninsurable.

Main image courtesy of Barry Hayes/GoFundMe.

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