This week gay Galway man Gavan Hennigan becake the fastest solo competitor in the history of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, dubbed ‘the world’s toughest row’.
Hennigan set off from the Canary Island on December 14, battling numerable physical and mental challenges over his 3,000-mile pull, before reaching Antigua’s English Harbour 49 days, 11 hours and 37 minutes later.
“It was an epic adventure,” said Hennigan, “and I’d absolutely want to do it again.”
Writing for The Irish Independent last year, Hennigan explained his motivation for rowing, partially attributing it to his coming to terms with his sexuality.
“Why do I do this? It goes back to when I was 21 and had a suicide attempt. I had a really hard time from the age of 16. I had grown up with the dance scene in the late 1990s. Almost every time I drank alcohol, I blacked out and I was using lots of ecstasy, heroin, cocaine and crack,” Hennigan wrote last October.
“There are wild teenagers and then there are people who end up in rehab. I got into a fair bit of trouble and had to leave Ireland. I lived in a squat in Holland and ended up sleeping on the streets in London.
“Also, I had a lot of trouble coming to terms with the fact that I was gay. I used to headbutt the mirror because I didn’t like what I saw.”
Hennigan destroyed the world record for the quickest Atlantic crossing by an Irish rower, beating the previous best time by 69 days.
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