Gavan Hennigan Irish Endurance Runner Turned Sailor Makes Ocean Rowing History


After 49 days on the water, Irishman Gavan Hennigan completed the 5,000km Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in style as he broke Irish and International Ocean Rowing Records.

The solo rower bravely held off the challenge of a 3 man American team, to finish the race in 3rd place, raise the Irish Tricolour and make ocean rowing history. 30 minutes was all that separated the two boats after 49 days of relentless ocean rowing, in what was an historically close finish.

On the finish line in Antigua, an exhausted Gavan had this to say:

”I’m so proud to have done this. Not many Irish have attempted this and I’m proud to have done it in style. I had so many messages of support. I’d get up some days… and I’d be struggling but when read those messages of support, that would motivate me to get back on the oars and do it for them. To do it for Ireland. The last 7 days have been relentless. I’ve rowed up to 19 hours a day and yesterday when I woke up, I decided it was time to finish this. So I’ve rowed for the past 14 hours straight.

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.”

The race began on the island of la Gomera, a small island in the Canary Islands on December 14th and saw 12 boats take to the water. Irishman Gavan Hennigan was one of 4 solo entries and in finishing 3rd, Hennigan has seen off the challenges of all the solo entries, the teams of two and three along with a boat of four.

In breaking the 50 day mark, Hennigan set a new Irish Solo Atlantic Rowing Record and set a new International Course Record for the crossing from la Gomera to Antigua. The fastest Irish man to make the East to West crossing previously, was Sean McGowan who completed the crossing in 118 days in 2010. McGowan had technical difficulties during his race and finished with two broken oars. The fastest Irishman to make the West to East crossing was Tom McClean in 1987 who completed the crossing in 55 days. On the international front, the fastest recorded crossing on the course from la Gomera to Antigua was by Matteo Perruchini who completed the crossing in 52 days in 2016.

No stranger to extreme, endurance events, Gavan has completed Ultramarathons, Iron Man challenges and raced across a frozen lake in Siberia on foot. He has adventured to all seven continents raising money for local Galway charities, Cancer Care West and Jigsaw West, which this row was also in aid of.

Rowena Hennigan, Sister of Gavan comments from Antigua:

Gavan burnt around 8,000 calories a day and lost approximately 20% of his body weight over the duration of the race, which started on 14th December 2016, from La Gomera in the Canary Islands. He endured tropical storms, sleep deprivation, sweltering heat and the psychological stresses of living and working in such an unpredictable environment. Through his achievement, Gavan has proven himself to be an astute tactician and a resilient, skilled and powerful ocean rower. He overcame not just the challenges faced by a solo competitior but he excelled in beating the chasing teams behind him. He has now made his mark on history and in the Ocean Rowing Society Records.