The ORS Int. is the official adjudicator of ocean rowing records for Guinness World Records

 


Storm on the horizon: hundreds miss the start of the rowing race and wonder where Miss Evans is

SPECIAL REPORT

Hundreds of well-wishers, families and friends lined the coast from Playa San Juan to Los Gigantes, gathering in Los Gigantes harbour where the Ward Evans Atlantic Rowing Challenge teams were expected to arrive to row around a marker outside the harbour at about 11.30 a.m. to start the race. Organisers of the event, The Challenge Business, were still insisting as late as 10.00 a.m. that the start would definitely be from Los Gigantes as this was where the race had left from in 1997, and which would give the rowers a chance to beat the record of 41 days set by New Zealanders Rob Hamill and Phil Stubbs. Television and press were waiting, and even one of the teams was there waiting for the rest to arrive.
Uncertainty from where the race would leave left teams thoroughly disillusioned with the appalling organisation of The Challenge Business. They were now indifferent as to where the start took place from, just as long as they left. At just after 10.00 a.m. The Challenge Business announced that the race would start from Playa San Juan. Imagine the disappoint- ment of families who had lived with the race preparations over three years, and who had travelled thousands of miles to support their team, only to find that the starting point had changed too late for them to get to the new start point. They were devastated. Team “Martha II” was unable to confirm either to the Cabildo or the Spanish Royal Family where the start would be; there had always been the possibility that their Patron, the heir to the Spanish throne, Prince Felipe, might want to be present.
Throughout the three years of preparation Theresa Evans, organiser of the race for The Challenge Business, has continually insisted that the race would definitely start from Los Gigantes despite repeated warnings from Juan Dopido, the harbour master, that it was impossible. Four years ago during and after the 1997 race, she was told by Juan Dopido that he was not prepared to stage the event again. Damien Placencia, a Los Gigantes shopkeeper and self-appointed Challenge Business representative in Tenerife, assured Theresa Evans that there would be no problem and that the race would definitely leave from Los Gigantes. The fact that there is an ongoing war between Juan Dopido and Damien Placencia, should have been enough to alert her to possible complications and even though she received advice from other quarters, she chose to ignore it all and once again tried to go over Juan Dopido’s head. There were offers to stage the race from other harbours including Santa Cruz de Tenerife, where it would have been very welcome. These were ignored. Playa San Juan have now stated that they are very unwilling to have anything more to do with The Challenge Business in the future. Where was Theresa Evans at the start of the race? Apparently in one of the bars drinking coffee.
When rowers started to arrive in Tenerife to prepare and finish their boats ready for the race, what did they find? No welcome, in fact, nothing. The conditions for them in Playa San Juan were a disgrace; no water, no electricity, no facilities. They had been told that security would be paramount, that an area was contracted by Damien Placencia (again) to be enclosed with 24-hour surveillance. What was there? A few crowd barriers and virtually no security. Things went missing off the boats at night, children were discovered climbing all over the boats, some rowers slept on board to protect them. There was no easy way of getting their boats in and out of the water, the lift cost them 1,500 pesetas each time. The Canary entry “Martha II” and “Challenge Yourself” were kept in Puerto Colón until the last moment. They were lucky. These conditions were an insult not only to the rowers who have put their lives on hold for three years, some losing their jobs, wives and girlfriends, but also to the helpers, families and friends who came, some from great distances, to support and help. The Challenge Business charged each team £11,000 to enter this race and what did they get? Certainly no publicity in the harbours, no hype, no help; even at the party Challenge organised for the teams, guests had to pay 5,000 ptas. each for a very mediocre buffet AND drinks were extra!!! Eventually Ward Evans (overall race sponsors) put up some banners and did all they could to ease the situation, as did Kenneth Crutchlow of the Ocean Rowing Society, who set up an office nearby in Playa San Juan to handle queries etc. the official organisers being hidden away in Los Gigantes. Who has time to drive a distance with every small query when one is trying to prepare to row the Atlantic?
It has been alleged that even before the start of the race, Damien Placencia started to lay claim to anything that was lying around, especially trailers as the boats were lowered into the water, as well as having rented out a trailer 'acquired' from the 1997 race for a ludicrous amount of money. Another allegation is that he rented out a berth in Los Gigantes which supposedly wasn’t in his power to rent, for an inflated price. When the unfortunate rowers were refused permission to use it they found that they had problems getting their money back. During a heated discussion Damien Placencia had with Kenneth Crutchlow about one particular trailer, he drove his jeep at Kenneth causing him to go over the bonnet and through the wind screen. As a result he had to have hospital treatment and stitches. The following day Damien Placencia walked up to Kenneth, punched him in the face and kicked him.
Where was The Challenge Business organiser during all of this? Surely she should have been on hand to deal with these problems? Dartmothian's trailer has disappeared, as have two cradles, one used by Yantu, which were donated to charity, as well as the wooden crate used by the Americans to ship their boat and another trailer due to be shipped to Barbados.

What is very upsetting is that a lot of blame has been laid on the shoulders of Tenerife and her people; WRONG; they have been treated with an arrogance and disdain they don't deserve.
pictured: The elusive Miss Theresa Evans (right) two years ago, talking to representatives of Ultramar Express when she came over to Tenerife on one of her rare appearances during the past four years.

Friday 26th October to Thursday 8th November 2001

Online Issue No: 185


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