One of Gavan's best friends and indeed his housemate (before the row!), Collette Furey gives us an insight into her great friend Gavan

Gavan is a close friend of mine. We met through mutual friends in the Jes when we were in our teens and we've been close for over 16 years now. I've seen first hand the struggles he had when he was younger and the tough journey he had to go through to recover from them. The strength he has gained from those experiences are now huge assets for him. I can see that strength shinging through not just on his challenges and adventures... but in every talk and speech he makes about his journey. 

I am a primary school teacher and I teach 5th class in Scoil Bhride, Shantalla. Gavan  is a big supporter of the school and the students in turn are big supporters of him. He has made many trips to the school over this past year and he has gained actual hero status amongst all the kids here in Scoil Bhride.

Gavan first came to the school to speak to us about his solo adventure in the Artic as part of the Yukon Arctic Ultra. Over the five days, in which he was racing, we were following him in class every day on the tracker. The kids were hooked straight away. They had so many questions about the race and his job (I'd briefly explained that he was a saturation diver) that the best thing to do was just to get him in for a chat. He arrived to the school dressed in his down suit and pulling the sled and due to this 'very cool' entrance he became an instant legend! He spoke of all of his adventures up to that date and opened up the kids eyes to a world of surfing, heli-snowboarding, the Antarctic, climbing some of the highest peaks in Nepal, life as a deep sea saturation diver and racing in the Yukon. Staff and pupils alike sat open mouthed and fascinated as he regailed story after story, experience after experience. He was so engaging and answered every question so patiently from the very excited and inquisitive audience. He gave the kids the chance to examine his gear and gave practical demos of how he used each and every item. We were all so fascinated by everything that he was doing. His message was simple: 'anything is possible' and this really resonated with the kids. Through his support of the two charities he made the kids aware of the work that Cancer Care West and Jigsaw do and was able to give insight into the positive things they do for people in tough situations. His attitude of believing in yourself and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone was one that stuck with everyone. He has been so encouraging towards our school and a real advocate for the philosophy of the school and the ethos behind it

When the kids learned of his latest challenge to row solo across the Atlantic, it caused a huge stir in school, so it was inevitable that he would be back in again to dazzle the kids with his newest undertaking. This time he had Doireann, his ocean rowing boat, in tow and he attracted the attention of RTE News who were on site on the day to report on the days activities. Throughout the morning every child in the school, from Early Start to 6th class, got a chance to not only meet Gavan and Doireann but to get on board and have a look around in what would become Gavan's home while he rowed across the Atlantic. The entire school body milled around the boat and asked numerous questions while RTE filmed the action. He took the time and interest in every kid and made sure they all got a look in his cabin to closely examine all the technology and supplies needed for such a trip. However, the kids demanded more! The school then had Gav come into the hall for what turned out to be a marathon question and answer session. I think the kids would have stayed there for hours asking him questions and while he gave all his attention to the kids and their questions we eventually had to call a halt to the talk. There was such an atmosphere of excitement and curiosity on that day and it has continued right the way through this adventure of Gavans. The kids all follow him on the tracker and there are daily reports of his progress as they figure out every day how far he has travelled. They feel so involved in his ups and downs out at sea. It made their day last week when I told them that we were going to ring him and he was going to do an exclusive interview with us. They had read all his tweets, blogs and updates, watched the Talisker race documentary from last year and 'dot watched' so they were well prepared with questions and words of encouragement for him. He took time out of his hard daily graft of 16 hours of rowing to chat to the kids for about 20 minutes and it was magical to feel the excitement in the air. We are so proud of him and we can't wait to see him back again with all his tales of adventure from the Atlantic.

Having lived with Gavan for the two years leading up to the row I am well aware of the amount of preparation, sacrifice and commitment that has gone into this challenge and I have no doubt that he has the mental strength and endurance to complete this race, break some records and continue to inspire everyone he meets. I know he really enjoyed giving talks in many primary and secondary schools throughout the country and as well as the students being motivated and positively influenced by him I know he was also very honoured and humbled by the interest in his story and his adventures. #rowgavrow #scoilbhridekids

 3: Gav, the hero, signing autographs for 5th class

 3: Gav, the hero, signing autographs for 5th class

4: The kids exploring Doireann 

4: The kids exploring Doireann 

6th class and their hero

6th class and their hero

Our Spanish girls who felt a special bond with Gavan when they realised he was starting his race from The Canary Islands

Our Spanish girls who felt a special bond with Gavan when they realised he was starting his race from The Canary Islands

Art lesson inspired by the local hero

Art lesson inspired by the local hero