French adventurer Jean-Jacques Savin was found dead in his boat Saturday after it overturned near the Azores, the Portuguese archipelago, as he was attempting to row solo across the Atlantic, according to a statement from his support team.
Savin, 75, activated distress beacons Thursday night and early Friday, according to the statement, which was posted on his Facebook page.
“For 24 hours, we were in a state of great anxiety,” it said. “We were hoping for a glimmer of hope, and even for good news. Unfortunately, this time the ocean was stronger than our friend, who loved navigation and the sea so much.”
Portuguese maritime authorities located Savin’s boat, l’Audacieux (“the Audacious”), on Saturday, and a diver found Savin’s body inside the cabin, the statement said.
“We will not be able to say more, not yet knowing the exact circumstances of this tragedy,” the statement said.
Savin began his journey from southern Portugal on Jan. 2 and posted several updates on Facebook.
On Jan. 7, the sixth day of the voyage, he described the sea as “very strong” and said that it “felt like a roller coaster.” On Jan. 10, he had traveled about 163 miles, which he said was “a good start!”
On Jan. 19, Savin posted his last diary entry on Facebook.
“I’ve run into some problems in the last 10 or so days,” he wrote. “The solar collector (which should recharge the battery of my water desalination system) has stopped working. I have been forced to use my manual desalinator, but that takes all my physical energy.
“Rest assured,” he added, “I’m not in danger!”
He was heading to the Azores, he said.
“There’s a beautiful marina with an airport next door,” he wrote. “Everything I need is there.
“Despite the current difficulties of strong swells and winds, it has become easier as the wind pushes me toward the archipelago,” he wrote, adding, “Despite it all, I will absolutely not give up!”
Savin, who turned 75 during this voyage, hailed from the oyster farming town of Arès, in southwestern France. He was a former military parachutist, pilot and park ranger in Africa who did not settle quietly into his golden years.
By the time he was 71, Savin had already sailed solo across the Atlantic four times.
In 2018, he crossed the Atlantic again, this time in an orange barrel-shaped capsule that he said he had built himself. A New York Times report described the capsule, which was about 10 feet long and 6 feet 8 inches wide, as “smaller than a pickup and held upright by a concrete ballast.”
He completed the journey in 127 days. In an interview afterward, Savin described his time at sea as “complete freedom.”
“It’s hard to convey,” he said. “No one tells you what to do. There are no rules. It’s freedom.”
Though he was skilled, and was equipped with sophisticated navigation and communication tools, that voyage was not without its challenges, he conceded. “Twice, I almost collided with large ships,” he said.
But still, Savin found plenty of time to luxuriate in the opportunities the sea afforded him. He passed the time, he said, by reading, writing in his journal, swimming and diving beneath the barrel to catch fish.
“I had a lot of time to write my book,” he said. “I played a lot of bluegrass on my mandolin.”