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Fiona Henderson reports
"A rowing boat might not be people's first choice of transport for an Atlantic crossing"
 real 28k

Diana Hoff, speaking to BBC Radio Scotland
"Luxury is lying in bed with a cup of tea"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 5 January, 2000, 15:46 GMT
Age no barrier to Atlantic crossing

Diana Hoff (right) with Tori Murden Diana Hoff (right) with rival Tori Murden

A 55-year-old Scotswoman is celebrating after becoming the oldest person to row the Atlantic solo.

Diana Hoff set off in her boat, Star Atlantic II, from Tenerife in the Canary Islands on 13 September, last year.

After reaching Barbados on Tuesday - ending her 113-day voyage - she declared: "I'm glad it's over. It went on much longer than I thought."

She looked well, though on her internet site she said she had lost pounds and looked "scraggly".

The Glasgow-born doctor had hoped to become the first woman to cross an ocean single-handedly.

Daughter rescued

But that honour was won American Tori Murden, 36, who left the Canaries on the same day as Hoff but reached the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe on 3 December, after 81 days at sea.

Hoff surprised the rowing community by deciding to row the Atlantic after her 26-year-old daughter, Elisabeth, had to be rescued just 10 days into her attempt when her boat capsized in February 1999.

Diana Hoff "It was longer than I thought"
In March, Hoff announced she would take up the challenge, prompting Murden to ask if they might leave together.

Murden chose a swifter route, though one more likely to be affected by hurricanes. With a host of sponsors, she was able to afford equipment including satellite telephones.

With companies unwilling to sponsor an older person, Hoff's only communications were via electronic mail, which failed to work some days.

"Tori is 20 years younger and stronger," said Hoff, a mother-of-three.

Hit by bad weather

She had expected to arrive weeks ago and had planned to celebrate Christmas and the new millennium in Barbados.

Instead, she dined on freeze-dried codfish and battled the foul weather that bedeviled her journey up to the last minute.

I thought, goodness this can't be that difficult
Diana Hoff
On Monday, with Barbados in sight and her boat being buffeted by rough seas, she decided to stay out one more night in an effort to bring her boat to shore alone.

Currents and strong winds made that impossible and on Tuesday, within three miles of shore, a boat towed her into Port St. Charles.

First to greet her was her Norwegian husband Stein, a heart surgeon from Kristiansand and rower who crossed the Atlantic with a partner in 1997 and landed at that same port.

Contact with cruise ship

Hoff, who has rowed 2,935 miles (4,700 kilometres), said she was inspired in part by her husband's trip.

"I thought they were crazy. Then there were only three women who had tried to make the trip across the Atlantic and failed ... I thought, goodness this can't be that difficult."

Her sole human contact during the journey was a November encounter with people aboard a passing cruise ship, who gave her fresh fruit and a cassette player.

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See also:
03 Dec 99 |  Americas
First woman rows the Atlantic
03 Oct 99 |  Americas
False alarm not my fault - rower
07 Apr 99 |  UK
Rower in 'last big adventure'

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