A LILLIESLEAF survival expert called in the coast guard after a solo attempt to row the Atlantic went wrong.

Record-breaking rower Level Brown is providing the guidance and on-shore support for Niall Macdonald's attempt to reach Stornoway from New York.

The charity fundraiser for mental health charity SAMH was still in the early stages when a problem with the rudder brought progress to a sudden halt.

Leven, who was part of Mark Beaumont’s support team for his Around Britain cycle challenge, decided to ask the coast guard for assistance after solo-rower Niall couldn't make repairs.

And following a 800-mile race to reach the stricken boat, the crew managed to fix the broken pin, allowing Niall to tackle the next 3,000 miles.

Leven told us: "It’s one of those things - a tiny R pin, a thing that holds the rudder in place, snaps in the middle of the night and the next thing you know the rudder is flapping around.

“I’ve been in exactly the same predicament before. I know exactly what it feels like and it’s horrible.

"Nine times out of 10 the loss of the rudder will be the end of the challenge, but he lives to fight another day, which is phenomenal.”

An original attempt to row the Atlantic by Niall was abandoned after just nine days in 2014 after he suffered an injury.

And the Gaelic broadcaster feared the worst again last week.

He said: "I basically went into a meltdown as I thought that I would have to abandon the row, and my boat, again.

"Disbelief, shock, sadness.

“I managed to get my head together for a while and began packing some dry bags with various things that could be salvaged from the boat. I then just sat and waited for the coastguard to appear.

"Just before they did, I scribbled a short note and stuck it to the chartplotter in the event that anyone should find my boat adrift, if I did indeed have to leave her behind.

“But they seemed to think that they could repair the rudder so I was taken across the the USCG cutter Diligence where they began to to work on my rudder.

“I am truly indebted to them all for what they did and thank you doesn't seem enough.

"They basically saved NY2SY."

Niall left America on May 23 in a bid to row solo for 3,400 miles to his home in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis.

He is aiming to raise awareness of mental health issues and at least £100,000 for Scottish mental health charity SAMH. Donations can be made via Niall Macdonald’s JustGiving page at www.justgiving.com/NY2SY.

In general, Leven said Niall Iain was “doing really well” and stressed what a big challenge it is to row the North Atlantic, compared to the mid Atlantic with the trade winds behind you.

He likened it to the difference between a black run and a yellow run in skiing.

“Sometimes things beyond your control happen on these expeditions and it can be in the lap of the gods. But so far, this has been an overall net positive compared to where it could have been.”

The repair has restored 95 per cent of the rudder capacity.

Now, said Leven, “he needs to shake his head, dust himself down, put it behind him and just focus on one stroke at a time. Never look too far ahead, never look too far behind, just stay in the moment and keep on paddling.

“He’s doing really well. This is the North Atlantic. I shouldn’t think this will be the first thing or the last thing that breaks. Let’s just hope that it’s a VHF antenna or a wheel on his seat next time. Not a rudder!”

Follow Niall Iain’s progress by checking the tracker on his website – www.ny2sy.co.uk/track-my-progress. His blog posts are found at blog.mailasail.com/ny2sy and he also posts to social media, although he cannot see comments. He is on Facebook at facebook.com/NY2SYsolo and on Twitter as @NY2SYsolo.


Pictures: Apart from the image of Niall Iain and Leven, taken in New York in summer 2017, all the pictures are of the US Coast Guard assisting Niall Iain and ALBA on Wednesday, June 6, 2018. Pictures courtesy of (and with thanks to) the US Coast Guard. Pictures will follow via wetransfer.

Further information:

For all NY2SY media inquiries contact Katie Laing, katielaingmedia@gmail.com / 07825200110.