Solo Italian rower rescued off Australia after 10-month journey

An Italian adventurer who spent 10 months rowing 18,000 kilometres (11,000 miles) solo across the Pacific was upbeat Saturday despite needing to be rescued heartbreakingly close to his goal, AFP reported.

Alex Bellini had been at sea since leaving Lima, Peru on February 21 and had expected to reach Australia on Saturday -- becoming only the fifth person to complete the journey which spans almost one-third of the globe.

But as fierce storms battered the Australian east coast Friday, Bellini's wife telephoned authorities to say her husband was 65 nautical miles (120 kilometres) from land, was nearing exhaustion and needed help.

A New Zealand-registered tug boat, which was just 12 nautical miles from the rower's position, was asked to help and reached land with the 30-year-old at Newcastle early on Saturday.

Bellini said his failure to complete the final stretch of the 18,000 kilometre (10,000 nautical miles) journey was a "peculiarity."

"I'm not disappointed. I'm not disappointed at all," he told AFP.

"I've been not able to reach land... but the crossing has been made."

The Italian, who has now completed the longest solo row in history at 295 days, said he was happy with his achievement.

"I didn't put the cherry on top of the cake," he said. "But the cake is very good, very big and I will never forget about it."

Bellini, who has also rowed across the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, ran 250 kilometres across a Moroccan desert and pulled a sled 1,400 kilometres through Alaska, said his legs were a little wobbly but he was in good health.

"The last time I had a walk longer than 10 metres was February 21," he said. "I'm good. I'll be better soon."

The Italian, who has spent the past 10 months alone on his 7.5-metre (25-foot) craft, described seeing his wife waiting for him at Newcastle as "like the day of my marriage. One of the best moments in my life."

Bellini has said he was inspired to make the Pacific crossing because it makes him feel "100 percent alive."

"I do it because for me it's extremely easy to do what seems extremely hard for others to even imagine," he said on his website.

He has acknowledged that even small things such as oversleeping or bumping his head could be a life-threatening scenario for a lone rower and that fear was his companion every day of the crossing.

"So concentration is very important and makes me like every moment without getting distracted -- and that's part of the fun. It's living every second 100 percent."

Bellini had a satellite telephone for the journey and kept in daily contact with his support team.

He ate stores of dried, high-calorie food he took with him and drank rain water and sea water which he purified using equipment rigged to his rowing seat.

When Bellini slept, the boat drifted, and to go to the toilet he used a bucket. "In the Atlantic I saw that the fish love it," he said on the website.

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