"Barrel man" dead in Atlantic solo attempt -- rowing this time

Jean-Jacques Savin, a 75-year-old French adventurer who was attempting to row across the Atlantic Ocean solo, was found dead inside his boat Saturday after he had sent out distress signals in the days before, his team said in a statement.

The Portuguese coast guard found the boat overturned near the Azores, the Portuguese archipelago, on Friday and dispatched a diver on Saturday.

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Yesterday, the Portuguese Navy said that no body was in the capsized boat.
Your WaPo link was updated.

What led this ‘expert’ to cross the North Atlantic in January, rowing from Portugal?
He should have known better. Exactly 3 years ago, he was in his ridiculous transatlantic drift in a barrel. Stubborn he started from the Canary Islands, while, in December, it was well known that the trade winds started 800 miles to the South at the Cabo Verde Islands.
In this Forum we laughed that he may finish on the Irish or Norwegian rocks…
This forum about the barrel odyssee 2018/19

This year the North Atlantic weather systems are similarly more southern as 3 years ago.
Starting from Portugal, 700 miles north of the Canaries at the latitude of the Azores, leads into the southern fronts of the North Atlantic winter depressions.
Did he expect to row against these strong westerly winds?

Savin’s boat was equipped with two cabins and 300 kilograms of equipment, including food, a speargun for fishing, an electric desalinator, his mandolin, champagne and foie gras. “I row eight hours a day and if the wind blows hard, I lock myself in,” said Savin.


Last week he celebrated his birthday at sea. But he also faced setbacks, such as bad weather and technical problems. His electrical support and solar panels on board broke down. The strong wind blew him out of the way, making it clear that he would have to row an extra 900 kilometers.

“The strong swell and force of the wind forces me to use my manual desalinator,” Savin wrote on Facebook on Wednesday. “That takes a lot of energy. But don’t worry, I’m not in danger."

But since the night from Thursday to Friday, he gave no sign of life. Shortly before that, Savin had sent two more distress signals. He was then north of Madeira, Portugal, en route to a stopover on the island of Ponta Delgada in the Azores for repair work.

Upside down

His family knew he was in big trouble. The Coast Guard launched a search. On Friday, Portuguese emergency services located Savin’s rowboat, which was drifting upside down near the Azores. On Saturday, a diver managed to enter the cabin. Savin’s lifeless body was found there. What exactly happened is unclear.

But were did he end up??

He did not; he never arrived at a coast of the Americas.

In the middle of the Atlantic, at 46° W, he was starving; the NOAA research vessel ‘Ronald H. Brown’ helped with some food…

After 5 months of drifting, impossible to arrive at a Caribbean island or at the US east coast, he and his barrel were lifted on board a commercial vessel, in the North of Puerto Rico.

For those interested in design issues of long distance rowing vessels, my friend Eric Sponberg designed one that was used for a successful crossing of the Pacific from Seattle to Australia:




I found this article about his trip in 2019:

Looks like he made it to the Caribbean, but had some help to get to a friendly French island.

I’d be curious to know what the expected weather / currents on the route he planned.

The Portuguese were working on this problem back in the 1400s:


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Yes; but these mean drifts and winds are more northerly or southerly, depending on the seasons, what the Portuguese certainly knew, and on the global circulation of a given year, what they could not know.

I ignore what route he planned for this year.
However, initially it was a bad planning, now and 3 years ago, without trigger points to do it or not.

Maybe, his working in the French Special Forces let him into troubles…
There, they do all kind of crazy and ‘forbidden’ things. They accept all command orders, crazy or even hopeless, because they know that all will be done to bring them out of an eventual disaster.

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From my post here >>> https://forum.gcaptain.com/t/71-year-old-frenchman-attempts-to-float-across-the-atlantic-ocean-in-capsule/50140/152?u=urs

Our „Friend in the barrel“ seems to be the winner in his opinion… and effectively the big looser; he will not arrive on a Caribbean island, nor in the Bahamas, nor on the American continent.
Some 8 hours ago the barrel reversed course to NE at 11 knots against 20 knots of easterly wind. This is only possible when the barrel is on a ship. Now, he stopped transmitting his position.

He (and his barrel) went to Sint Eustatius port on board a tanker.
Hence, he did NOT make it!

He reached the Caribbean Sea, but not an island.
Isn’t that good enough??

No, he never drifted into the Caribbean Sea in his barrel.
The eastern limit of the Caribbean is the Antilles chain of islands. He reached their longitude much too high, north of Puerto Rico, still in the Atlantic.

There, the barrel was lifted on deck of a tanker proceeding to Sint Eustatius in the Caribbean.
Then, a tug carried the barrel on deck to Martinique, where his sponsors were waiting…

The night of January 19-20th winds were 25-35 knots and seas 12-17 feet northeast of the low center.


If his idea was to be recognized for his accomplishment? I guess not he is dead.
I wonder why he attempted such a thing at his age, his life on land must have been really bad. He had a good 50 years to try crazy crap but waits until he is 72 to try to cross the Atlantic in the winter in a modified barrel? Irresponsible if not bat shit crazy.


well, kudos i guess for him to be doing what he wanted to do. 75 isn’t so old if you’re in good shape but he could of had heart problems or something. As professional Mariners we may figure he’s a little kukoo to ‘row across the atlantic’ figuring sails are plenty good but if that’s what he really wanted to do then it’s fine, maybe perishing at sea was right for him, who knows?


I wonder if his last thought was,“What was I thinking? This sucks.” :grinning: We all have had some misadventures that did not go as planned, luckily we survived, sadly he did not, but he tried.

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