Epic tale of adventure now a film

No help. No clue. No turning back.

The shorthand description of a lads' adventure in which two British chaps rowed from Geraldton across the Indian Ocean was used by one of the pair, James Adair, on the cover of his book about the experience.

Perhaps we could add no bloody brains.

Why else would the pair, who had precious little rowing experience, and who trained for just a few months on the Thames, set off into the headwinds that tear into the mid-west coast of WA and head the boat towards Mauritius?

That they did it is testament to their strength of mind and body and also perhaps that special British doggedness that has taken many of their countrymen through many a scrape over many a year.

The journey began with what was reportedly a pact between Adair and a mate, Ben Stenning, in 2004 as students at prestigious St Andrews University, Scotland, where they were contemporaries of Prince William.

According to the Daily Mail, the pact was forgotten until many years later when Stenning was working as a "fully integrated accounting software salesman", Adair was studying law but not enjoying it, and they lived in a "mouse-infested flat".

Drawing inspiration from red wine and part of a quote attributed to Ernest Hemingway to "do sober what you said you'd do drunk", they revived the dream.

So the pair, both aged 30, spent their combined life savings of $25,000 on a 7.9m self-righting ocean rowing boat, and travelled to Geraldton.

They loaded the Indian Runner with about 300kg of dry food, navigation equipment, a desalinator and a few luxuries such as whisky and a couple of books each.

And on April 21, 2011, they rowed out of Geraldton.

Adair's book, Rowing After The White Whale, a crossing of the Indian Ocean by hand, told how one of the biggest tests came early off the WA coast where they battled the relentless onshore winds which, as West Australians know only too well, can force trees to grow parallel to the ground in that part of the world.

The strain of rowing left their hands locked in a "claw" which made it hard to grip essential tools needed for onboard maintenance.

They were nearly run down by a cargo ship, the watermaking equipment broke down, but day after day they rowed onwards, taking turns of three hours on, three hours off at the oars. Finally, after 5930km and 116 days, their worst moment occurred when they were in sight of their destination.

A massive wave capsized the boat and threw the intrepid pair into the ocean.

The BBC reported that as night fell, they decided to abandon the crippled boat and swim for their lives.

The swirling currents smashed them on to a coral reef, which ripped into their bodies as they clung on for dear life.

The men's families, who had flown out to welcome them, aware that their shipwrecked boat had been found, waited anxiously as a search got under way.

Fighting exhaustion and the jagged reef, the men were finally saved when crew on a Mauritian rescue boat saw an oar floating nearby, heard the desperate cries for help and managed to pluck them to safety.

Now the adventure has been made into a documentary by filmmaker Ben Finney, titled And Then We Swam.

Finney says on his website that the film was a chance to "examine the need that many people experience today - to step away from the comforts of modern life and reconnect with the natural world".

And in so doing he has brought to life a bloody miracle.

The West Australian

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