Old hand Connacher, friends team up for Smile Foundation
Fatigue, sleep deprivation, adverse weather and unpredictable sea life will be among the many challenges facing three friends who have signed up to tackle what is arguably the world’s toughest ocean race.
In a bid to raise money for the Smile Foundation – which assists children with facial conditions that require corrective plastic and reconstructive surgery – the trio will be tackling The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, rowing nearly 5 000km across the Atlantic Ocean.
Eastern Cape rower Stuart Connacher, 50, who is from Summerstrand but moved to Butterworth nine months ago, said this would be his third crossing, the second rowing in the Talisker challenge.
“I did The Talisker challenge last year as a solo rower,” Connacher, who had previously completed a crossing as part of an eight-man crew, said.
“This race allows us to discover not only a new world out there, but more about ourselves, our fears, the beauty of our oceans and hopefully the thing that means the most to us, living life.”
Trying a different approach this year, Connacher and friends Charl Gale, 49, and Wayne Johnson, 44, will together be pitting themselves against the ocean and the elements.
The event, which launches – weather permitting – on about December 14 from the Canary Islands port of San Sebastian on La Gomera island and ends at Nelson’s Dockyard English Harbour, in Antigua, West Indies, is contested over 40 to 90 days.
The race attracts competitors from around the world and in a number of classes from solo to pairs and fours.
First-time competitor Gale, of East London, said he felt honoured to be embarking on the trip with his friend.
“This year I have the privilege of personally participating in the race, something I consider a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Gale said.
Their boat, named Tide, will retain the Smile Foundation branding used in Connacher’s first Talisker crossing, for the duration of the challenge.
Johnson, a certified yacht master and captain, said: “This crossing represents the pinnacle of team work and tests the highest level of endurance, patience and mental fortitude.”
Smile Foundation finance and fundraising executive director Hedley Lewis said the organisation was proud to have the trio represent it.
“We are honoured they will undertake this trip to help raise awareness of our work with less fortunate children, and raise funds to help support our ongoing surgical interventions,” he said.