Durban businessman Grant Blakeway has entered the 2019 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge to highlight the devastating effects of marine plastic pollution.
Durban, South Africa – Durban-based logistics entrepreneur Grant Blakeway (58) will compete as a solo rower in the 2019 edition of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in a next-generation vessel that’s being built by ocean master Leven Brown.
The premier event on the global ocean-rowing calendar is sponsored by Talisker Single Malt Whisky and organised by Atlantic Campaigns. It involves a 3000-mile (approximately 4800km) unassisted row from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to English Harbour in Antigua.
The annual race attracts competitors from all over the world – including South Africa. Previous local entrants include University of Cape Town students Cole Barnard, Lee Gordon, Grant Soll and Matthew Boynton (the MAD 4 Waves team of four), who finished the 2018 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in 39 days, 8 hours and 43 minutes.
Why this race? And why now?
The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is a gruelling experience that tests the courage, stamina, and endurance of every person who pits themselves against the might of the sea. But it’s also an internationally recognised event with widespread media coverage and global interest. Rowers have a unique platform to share their message with three billion people.
Blakeway’s message is simple: Plastic pollution is having a devastating effect on marine ecosystems everywhere. It’s everybody’s problem. And it’s time to stand up, get involved, and make a difference.
“I have no illusions about the task that lies ahead of me. I’m not a young man, and I’m certainly not a professional rower. I’m just a regular guy. But I have a global audience with this race. And I’ve got a voice. I’m using it now to tell people that we need to wake up and realise we’re destroying our oceans,” says Blakeway.
With an estimated eight million tons of plastic entering the seas every year, Blakeway believes education is imperative. He has partnered with two organisations that share this sentiment: White Shark Projects and the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation.
Blakeway has chosen White Shark Projects’ Recycle Swop Shop and the Aquarium’s Oceans In Motion outreach programme as his beneficiaries.
“We have to teach our children and grandchildren that the oceans are absolutely vital for life on Earth. And we have to show them how to be active environmental protectors,” says Blakeway.
Melokuhle is the name that Blakeway has chosen for his one-person race team.
“It’s an isiZulu word that means ‘stand for good’,” he explains. “Stand… That’s the whole point. We have to be active. We have to start doing things differently. We have to start looking for better solutions.”
The Melokuhle Mystery Boat
Blakeway is thrilled to have internationally renowned survival expert, Guinness World Record holder and maritime consultant Leven Brown in his corner. Brown’s company, Leven Brown Adventure & Ocean Services, is building Blakeway’s boat. Brown himself will assist Blakeway with route planning and weather guidance during the 2019 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.
“The boat is a bit of a secret,” says Blakeway. “It’s currently under construction in Ukraine, and Leven has been sending pictures and progress reports.”
Blakeway expects the boat to be finished by mid-year and plans to keep it under wraps until he’s had a chance to see the finished product for himself. “I’ve dubbed it the Melokuhle Mystery Boat for now,” he chuckles.
Blakeway is currently raising funds for his race campaign via the donation-based crowdfunding platform BackaBuddy and will unveil further fund-raising initiatives by month-end. His schedule from now until the start of the race is jam-packed as well. He wants to get South Africans involved in practical environmental activities, and he plans to conduct school tours to show scholars how to start their own recycling programmes.
“I believe we can turn the tide against plastic, I really do,” says Blakeway.
“But we have to make a conscious choice to change the way we live, to change the way we consume products… If I can inspire people to choose paper straws over plastic ones or to take their own shopping bags to the mall, then that’s a step in the right direction. And all journeys begin with one small step.”