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Friday, 3 December, 1999, 17:32 GMT
First woman rows the Atlantic

A Kentucky lawyer has become the first woman - and the first American - to row across the Atlantic.

Victoria Murden, 36, stepped ashore on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe at 0945 local time (1345 GMT) on Friday after spending 12 weeks at sea.

"The next time I'll take the Concorde," she said. "This land does wobble and my legs are tanned."

Her 3,000 mile journey began on 13 September when she set out from Spain's Canary Islands off the north-west coast of Africa, and ended 85 days later.

I am well beyond screaming at the wind
Victoria Murden on Hurrican Lenny
A group of technicians and friends rode in a boat in front of Ms Murden.

The American beat Norwegian Diana Hoff and Frenchwoman Peggy Bouchet, who had earlier attempted the crossing.

Three previous attempts by women to row across the Atlantic last year, including a bid by Ms Murden, ended in failure or shipwreck.

Hoped to break record

The rower initially thought she would smash the 1970 record of 73 days, set by the UK's Sidney Genders.

Victoria Murden Victoria Murden took 85 days to row acorss the Atlantic
But she crossed the tail end of Hurricane Lenny, a storm that whipped up 6m (20-foot) waves and winds of 20 knots.

Her boat, American Pearl, upended in the rough conditions and tipped her into the sea - forcing the rower to relive her memories of being rescued after her unsuccesful 1998 attempt on the crossing when Hurricane Danielle capsized her 15 times.

In a message posted on the Internet, Ms Murden said crossing Lenny's path had helped exorcise her bad memories of the earlier voyage.

"Just because boats flipping end-over-end are a part of my history, does not mean they will be a part of my future."

Some days, the rough weather forced her backward by up to 16km (10 miles) and she had to drop anchors to stop losing more headway.

"I dare not describe my mood. I am well beyond screaming at the wind.

"I do not think I will make any progress today. I'll be content if I do not lose miles," she wrote in one Internet mesage.

Other messages recounted frolicking with a pair of dolphins, which she named Stella and Stanley, the doomed lovers in Tennessee Williams' play A Streetcar Named Desire.

Elite athlete

Ms Murden is a member of the Sector No Limits Team, an international group of 31 athletes committed to testing their endurance.

In between such feats as rowing across oceans and skiing to the geographic South Pole, Ms Murden works for a non-profit motivational program for underprivileged youths.

She described her ocean-rowing adventure as a journey within herself.

"I row an actual ocean. Other people have just as many obstacles to go through," she said in a telephone interview last month.

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See also:
25 Sep 98 |  Europe
He's swum it
23 Sep 98 |  Sport
Windsurfers conquer Atlantic
07 Apr 99 |  UK
Rower in 'last big adventure'

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