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Only two weeks to go … 
… and still no word on start for Atlantic rowing race

September 21st 2001

AS MORE rowers arrived to take part in the 2001 Ward Evans Atlantic Challenge rowing race the organisers still cannot say for certain where it will start. 
No solution has yet been reached over the problem of accommodating the expected 36 23ft boats at Los Gigantes marina, from where the rowers have always been told the race would start. 
Juan Dopido, harbourmaster at Los Gigantes, has consistently warned, for the last four years, that it was “highly unlikely” that he would be able to find berths for more than, at best, a handful of the boats. Meanwhile boats are beginning to arrive at the ports of Playa San Juan and Puerto Colon, expecting to be allowed in to Los Gigantes Marina three days before the event, scheduled for Sunday, October 7. Two of the rowing boats were on the hard stand at Playa San Juan harbour this week, with American Star, the sole American entry, expected this weekend. 
Canarian rowers Pedro Ripol and Francisco Korff are promising a noisy cavalcade for the arrival of their boat, Project Martha II, from Puerto Colon on Sunday and a rapid influx of boats and rowers is expected during next week. 
But rowers who have already arrived for the October 7 event were fighting to keep their cool over what they see as “chaotic” arrangements made by the organisers, Sir Chay Blyth’s The Challenge Business. Brothers Steve and Mick Dawson, former Royal Marines from Boston, Lincs, arrived last Saturday week to acclimatise themselves for the race. Their boat, Mrs D (named after their mother), arrived through Juan de la Rosa customs agents in Santa Cruz according to schedule the following Wednesday and has been waiting at Playa San Juan ever since – without once going into the water. 
“Everything worked smoothly with getting our boat here,” said the brothers, “but we were disappointed to get here and find nothing has been organised for the start. 
“We can’t understand why The Challenge Business didn’t do something to sort out the mess long ago and we shall be asking some questions when their representative arrives next week.” They said they had met with nothing but helpfulness from everybody they had met since arrival, from the fishermen whose port they are using, to the harbourmaster at Los Gigantes marina. 
“But still The Challenge Business cannot tell us whether the race will leave from Los Gigantes or Playa San Juan,” said Mick, 37.
 “We are waiting until next week, when all the boats and rowers are supposed to be here, to see if The Challenge Business can come up with the answer. 
“Meanwhile we are just enjoying ourselves in a great place as we prepare for the off.” 
Like all the other entrants, Steve, 41, and Mick paid The Challenge Business Ј15,000 to enter the race. But buying the boat in kit form, building it, transporting it and various other expenses have run them up a total bill in excess of Ј50,000. 
“Whatever happens, we will row the Atlantic,” said Steve. “Our real start was a year ago when we decided to enter.” 
True to the motto painted on the side of their boat ‘Thou Shalt Not Drip’ (a Marines expression for moaning), Steve and Mick are remaining stoical about the confusion. 
So is Jonathan Gornall, first of the rowers to arrive, nearly two months before the scheduled start. He had to cool his heels for nearly three weeks while his boat, Star Challenger, was first delayed by bad weather and then held up at customs in Santa Cruz. 
His partner aboard their boat Star Challenger, Dominic Biggs, arrived last Friday and they have moved their digs from Playa Santiago to Playa San Juan to be closer to their boat. 
“It’s all just a load of crap and incompetence when all this happens,” Jonathan said, “but we’re not letting it get us down. “It will all be behind us once we get under way.” 
Concern is also rising among the rowers about getting their boats into the water at Playa San Juan. 
“This is a fishing port with only one crane, which is used by the fishermen,” said Steve Dawson. “It takes at least 15 minutes to get each boat into the water.”
“What’s it going to be like if we can’t get our boats into Los Gigantes marina for a start from there? It will take hours to put all 36 boats into the water and then we’ll have to row all the way round to Los Gigantes before we can even line up for the start. We don’t need that immediately before a 3,000-mile row to Barbados.” 
Teresa Evans, project manager for The Challenge Business, was unavailable for comment this week as The Western Sun went to press.

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