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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 March, 2005, 23:30 GMT
Frenchwoman rows to Pacific first
Maud Fontenoy is carried ashore by Polynesian islanders
Maud Fontenoy was welcomed ashore in a colourful ceremony
France's Maud Fontenoy has become the first woman to row solo across the Pacific Ocean from Peru to Polynesia.

The 27-year-old was carried ashore and garlanded with flowers after she reached the island of Hiva Oa at the end of her 8,000km (5,000-mile) trip.

She said her fingers were aching and back sore after rowing her 7m (23ft) boat across the ocean for 72 days.

"It is a moment I have waited for so long that I can only be delighted," she told French radio on arriving.

Ms Fontenoy crossed the 138.5 longitude finish line north of Hiva Oa at about 0400 (1400 GMT) on Saturday - a month ahead of her expected finish date.

'Exercise of will'

She had to row for several more hours before reaching the island, where men in traditional clothing waited to lift her ashore.

The rower was given the title "tahia" (queen) in a colourful welcome ceremony, the AFP news agency reports.

Ms Fontenoy told French radio her journey from Lima's Callao port had been "an exercise of will to prove that even a woman has the determination and physical qualities to make a crossing of this scale".

Maud Fontenoy waves a flare as she crosses the finish line
The rower reached the end of her trek a month ahead of schedule

She said the end of her trip had been difficult after her scarlet boat Oceor capsized and she feared she would drown.

The vessel was equipped with food supplies, a desalination unit for water, a navigation system and a satellite phone to keep her in contact with family and friends.

Ms Fontenoy already held the record as the first woman to row across the Atlantic Ocean from west to east.

For her Pacific crossing, she chose to follow the route of Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl's epic 1947 journey.

Heyerdahl and his team crossed the Pacific on a balsa raft named the Kon-Tiki in 101 days, in a bid to prove the South Sea Islands could have been settled from the east.

French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin sent a telegram congratulating Ms Fontenoy on her achievement.

Frenchwoman seeks Pacific record
13 Jan 05 |  Americas

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