‘Facing It’ with a smile

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Team to row 5000km across Atlantic to raise funds, try break record

FACING storms, hurricanes, seasickness, hunger, sleep deprivation, heat and sores all over their bodies, three men are preparing to row across the Atlantic Ocean in a quest to break the world record and raise funds for The Smile Foundation.

The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is not called the world’s toughest row for nothing. Teams travel a gruelling 5000km across the ocean (starting at San Sebastian, La Gomera, in the Canary Islands and ending at Nelson’s Dock Yard English Harbour in Antigua), which can take 40 to 90 days to complete, depending on the weather.

OCEAN WARRIOR: After two successful solo Atlantic crossings in 2014 and last year,  Stuart   Connacher  will again take on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge with an all-South African team this year. They will use the same boat he used last yearPicture: SUPPLIED
OCEAN WARRIOR: After two successful solo Atlantic crossings in 2014 and last year, Stuart Connacher will again take on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge with an all-South African team this year. They will use the same boat he used last yearPicture: SUPPLIED

The “Facing It” team includes East London maintenance man Charl Gale, 49, two-time finisher Stuart Connacher, 50, from the Transkei, and certified yacht master and captain, Wayne Johnson, 44.

Go! & Express caught up with Gale and Connacher to hear about their preparations for the arduous mental and physical feat.

Connacher thought he’d never do it again but wanted to assist long-time friend G

TOUGH TEAM: Experienced oarsman  Stuart   Connacher, left,  will complete the Atlantic Challenge for the third consecutive year but this time alongside long-time friend Charl Gale, right, from East London, and Wayne Johnson, who resides in Antigua, where the race ends Picture: MARCEL HOLST
TOUGH TEAM: Experienced oarsman Stuart Connacher, left, will complete the Atlantic Challenge for the third consecutive year but this time alongside long-time friend Charl Gale, right, from East London, and Wayne Johnson, who resides in Antigua, where the race ends Picture: MARCEL HOLST

ale in achieving his goal and changing the lives of more than 180 children through the Smile Foundation.

The foundation provides reconstructive surgery to children suffering from treatable facial abnormalities such as cleft lips and burns victims.

“Children walk into the operating theatre and their lives are changed. Giving back is so important for us,” Connacher said.

“This year, we aim to raise R1.2-million or more and break the world record by completing the race in less than 37 days, but this is completely weather dependent,” he said.

Gale said he had been bulking-up for the race, which saw most competitors lose between 15 to 20kgs on the trip.

“Not knowing what to expect is my greatest fear at the moment.

“I’m sure it will take a few days to settle down,” Gale said.

They row in shifts with two hours on, two hours off.

“The volatility on board is ridiculous and the fatigue is incredible,” Connacher said.

Their 9m x 1.7m boat, comprises of rowing space for two people and two small cabins at the front and back.

The team are expected to head off on December 14 and fans will be able to follow them on social media.

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