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

 



Man to Row Across Ocean to Promote AIDS

Fabruary 6th 2004

TODD PITMAN 
Associated Press


 GOREE ISLAND, Senegal - Wearing black leg, wrist and neck shackles he purchased off the Internet, Victor Mooney crawled through this Senegalese island's crumbling clay and brick slave house to a rowing machine perched on a stone floor.

The brief act was part of an effort to drum up attention for the 39-year-old New Yorker's planned solo voyage across the Atlantic Ocean next year - to raise awareness about the global HIV/AIDS pandemic.

"I believe AIDS is 100 percent preventable, and anything we can do to get that message out will help," Mooney said on Goree Island, just off the coast of Senegal's capital, Dakar.

Mooney, a communications officer at the College of Advanced Technology in New York City, has spent years rowing the waters around New York out of a lifelong love for the sport.

Now, after losing loved ones to AIDS, he says he is eager to raise awareness - and money - for the cause.

Other professional rowers have crossed the Atlantic Ocean before, but most began in places like Spain's Canary Islands, farther north off Africa's western coast, Mooney said.

"I didn't feel a connection to the Canary Islands, so I looked on the map and saw Goree and said this will be where I will start from - the history of my ancestors," Mooney said Thursday, midway through a six-day trip to Senegal, his first to West Africa.

Tourists with cameras hanging from their necks raised their sunglasses to get a better look at Mooney as he crawled in chains across the sand of the slave house toward the rowing machine.

The Goree Island house is said to have been one of countless West African departure points for slaves headed across the Atlantic.

Mooney estimates it will take two to three months to cross to Brazil, and from there, another five months to ply north through the Caribbean and up along the eastern coast of the United States to New York.

The 8,000-mile route was chosen to pay homage to the millions of African slaves who were forced to make the journey in shackles to the Americas, Mooney said. The Feb. 1 start date coincides with the beginning of Black History Month in the United States.

Mooney plans to travel in a 24-foot-long plywood boat stocked with military rations and equipped with a satellite phone and an Internet link so others can follow along online. Another larger support boat will trail behind to videotape the voyage, but will not provide any aid unless there is an emergency, Mooney said.

The undertaking - scheduled for Feb. 5, 2005 - will not be cheap. Mooney estimates the cost at $200,000. Corporate and other sponsors have chipped in $3,000.

All money raised above the cost amount will be donated to HIV/AIDS charities around the world, Mooney said.

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 26.6 million of the between 34 million and 46 million people worldwide living with HIV, according to U.N. figures.

  1983-2004 Ocean Rowing Society

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