Gavan Hennigan, a gay Irishman and former alcoholic and heroin addict, last week set a new International Solo Row Course record completing a 3100 mile row across the Atlantic Ocean from the Canary Islands to Antigua.
— Gavan Hennigan (@soulogav) February 2, 2017
He bravely held off the challenge of a three man American team, to finish the race in third place. 30 minutes was all that separated the two boats after 49 days of relentless ocean rowing, in what was an historically close finish.
Upon arrival at Antigua, he raised the Irish Tricolour to salute the large crowd gathered to watch him complete the race.
The 35-year-old completed the 5,000km journey, crossing the line in Antigua, after 49 days, 11 hours, 37 minutes at sea.
He finished third overall in the 12-boat Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.
He also becomes the fastest solo competitor in the history of the race. The fastest Irish man to make the East to West crossing previously was Sean McGowan who completed the crossing in 118 days in 2010.
Hennigan spoke to the Irish Times about his addiction issues and his sexual orientation in an interview last September when he was preparing for his solo row:
“I was afraid to admit I was gay, I had huge abandonment issues around my Dad’s behaviour and it was only when I hit rock bottom that I could look up and try to deal with it.”
Today, Hennigan is keen to speak out about his own experiences to make sure other young people don’t feel so lost.
“You know as a man it can be difficult: ‘here’s another fella with a good sob story’. But I just felt I did not fit in and I had so many anger issues. I don’t particularly identify as a gay role model but if one person can see that I have survived all that, it will be worth it.”
Said Hennigan upon completion of his row:
”I’m so proud to have done this. Not many Irish have attempted a Solo row across the Atlantic and I feel I’ve done it in style. I had so many messages of support. I’d get up some days and I’d be struggling but when I read the positivity in those notes and comments from complete strangers that would motivate me to get back on the oars and do it for them. To do it for Ireland. The last seven days have been relentless. At times, I’ve rowed up to 19 hours a day and yesterday when I woke up, I decided it was time to finish this. I’ve rowed for the past 14 hours straight. I gave that my all. This has been a life changing experience. I’ve experienced the beauty of the Atlantic sunsets and sunrises, the thrill of open ocean row boat surfing, the despair of driving headwinds and the joy of arriving back on land today. For the past 49 days I’ve had one single goal. To live life. I’ve embraced every minute and I’m so happy to be here finally. I’d like to thank Talisker and Atlantic campaigns for giving me the opportunity to make this journey. I’ll never forget it.”