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HomeNewsHeinz will give ketchup-survivor a new boat.

Heinz will give ketchup-survivor a new boat.

Sailor Elvis François being checked after his rescue on the Caribbean Sea in Colombia. Photograph: Colombian navy/AFP/Getty Images

A US ketchup manufacturer is making arrangements to provide a new boat to a man who ate the company’s signature condiment to survive being lost at sea for nearly a month.

The Heinz food company, based in Pittsburgh, has made contact with the saved sailor, Elvis François, about buying him a new sailing vessel after it launched a social media campaign which was titled #FindtheKetchupBoatGuy that quickly went viral. François had abandoned his old boat when he was finally rescued.

“We received thousands of likes, shares and messages of kindness in our search to find Elvis François,” a statement on Heinz’s Instagram page said on Monday. “It was an incredible group effort across six continents that led to the hundreds of articles and leads and our eventual contact with Elvis.”

Heinz issued a separate statement to the Guardian on Tuesday that said the company and François “are working out the logistical details of [getting] him his new boat” but otherwise didn’t elaborate.

Emo News, a media outlet in Dominica, where François is from, had reported in a brief Facebook post on Sunday that Heinz representatives met with the sailor over a Zoom conference call two days earlier.

The #FindtheKetchupBoatGuy campaign has served as a postscript of sorts to a survival saga that began in December, when currents in the Caribbean swept François’ sailboat away while he made repairs to it off the island of Sint Maarten in the Netherlands Antilles, where he lives.

François later told officials that he tried to use his cellphone to tell his friends where he was so they could come find him, but he didn’t have an adequate signal.

He subsisted on a bottle of Heinz ketchup, garlic powder, cubes of the Maggi brand of soup and rainwater which he collected with a cloth. He also scrawled the word “help” in English on the boat’s hull.

“There was nothing else to do but sit and wait” after that, François has said about his ordeal.

François has said he spent a total of 24 days adrift, having to remove water from the boat to avoid sinking and unsuccessfully trying to start a fire as a distress signal.

Eventually, he used a mirror to flag down a passing plane, whose pilot noticed him about 120 nautical miles north-west of Colombia’s Guajira peninsula. A container ship’s crew then brought him to the port of Cartagena, where – other than some weight loss – he was given a clean bill of health, according to the Colombian navy, which announced the remarkable rescue on 18 January.

“At some point I lost hope and thought about my family,” François said in a video released by the Colombian navy. “I thank the [rescuers] – if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be telling the story.”

François abandoned his sailboat at sea after the container ship picked him up. And after Heinz realized that he had survived with the help of three daily doses from one of the food manufacturer’s ketchup bottles, the company sought to track him down and give him a new boat.

But it couldn’t immediately find him, prompting Heinz to go on Instagram and plead with the social media platform’s users to help the company find François.

That plea – in the form of the #FindtheKetchupBoatGuy campaign – reached nearly 5 million users and garnered more than 4,000 likes, a record for Heinz, the company said in its statement to the Guardian. Dominica’s Emo News noticed the campaign and got in touch with François, setting the stage for him to speak with Heinz.

In an interview he granted to Emo News, François said he “didn’t know what to think” about Heinz’s efforts to get him a new boat, but he seemed to welcome the prospect.

“I lost all that I had on the boat,” he told Emo News.

Source: guardian

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