“I’m not going out there believing I’m gonna destroy the Atlantic. There is an element of fear and anxiety, but I have to believe I can do it and I have the tools to do so.”
Galway Adventurer Gavan Hennigan is preparing to take on his biggest challenge yet, to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean. He’s planning to paddle 5000kms from the Canary Islands to the Carribean island of Antigua in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge. And he’s hoping to win it.
“This race seems pretty epic. Like an amazing challenge. As a surfer and commercial diver, it really appeals to me. I have a healthy fear of the sea having spent years working in stormy waters building oil rigs. I know the sea is the boss and it will dictate what happens. I’m not going out there thinking I’m gonna destroy the Atlantic. There is an element of fear and anxiety, but I have to believe I can do it and I have the tools.”
Gavan is rowing in a carbon fibre boat, carrying all the safety equipment and food he needs for the trip. He’ll be burning up to 9000 calories a day, working in rowing shifts of 2/3 hours and then sleeping for an hour or making food, desalinating water, navigating or doing odd jobs around the boat. He will carry enough freeze dried meals (of 5000 calories each) to cover 90 days, even though he hopes the trip will take him around half that time.
Rowing the Atlantic is one of the toughest challenges on the planet. More people have landed on the moon, climbed Everest or been to the North Pole.
Gavan sets off from the Canaries on 15 December 2016.
“I’m itching to go now. I’ve been doing a lot of talking about it and I’m ready to go. I’m currently getting the boat ready fitting it with a cooker, desalinator and all the kit it needs. I have two sets of oars and plenty of spare parts. I’ve been doing some good sessions in it in Galway Bay and around the south coast between Baltimore and Cork city. I’m also training on the rowing machine in my living room doing a couple of hours a day and still training in the gym.”
Gavan has already run 700kms across frozen Lake Baikal in Siberia this year. He came 2nd in the Yukon Arctic Ultra Marathon and 2nd in the Western Way Ultra Marathon in the west of Ireland.
He’ll travel to the Canaries at the start of December and will spend two weeks there doing sea trials and having the boat scrutinised for all of the equipment and safety gear he needs to bring.
“I can’t really think of the end of the race. I’ll be doing 1.5 million strokes across the Atlantic and I won’t exactly be counting those. I have to take it day to day, one stroke at a time. I don’t think of the bigger picture too much. I meditate for five or ten minutes every morning so I’ll try and do that and stay in the present, in the moment, becoming a bit of a robot and just moving forward and getting the job done.”
He’s raising money for two charities, Cancer Care West and Jigsaw.
Check out this video from last year’s race. It’s pretty much guaranteed to give you shivers.