Alone on the ocean: former rugby star takes on Atlantic

Galwayman Damian Browne, the former Connacht and Leinster rugby star, gets ready for a very special night in Galway with Elmo and MADRA Rescue Dog Ted. The Atlantic Challenge Dinner will raise funds for Damian’s chosen charities MADRA, Medecins Sans Frontieres and the Strong Roots Foundation School Rwanda, taking place on Saturday, September 30 in the Ardilaun Hotel. Photo: Andrew Downes, xposure.

A former Connacht rugby star is preparing for one of his toughest tests to date – a solo row across the Atlantic Ocean this December.

Damian Browne’s 4,800km crossing in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge will begin in the Canary Islands and finish in Antigua – a mission to stretch the mental and physical capacities of the individuals taking part.

The former Connacht and Leinster lock will be competing as a solo rower – which means there will be no support boat and no company, just himself and a boatload of food to sustain him on his journey.

No stranger to a test of self during his rugby career, the Galway native completed his first international physical and mental challenge in April 2016 when he ran the Marathon des Sables in the Moroccan Sahara – fulfilling a dream twelve years in the making.

The 36 year old then set his sights on his next perilous venture.  Damian came upon the Talisker Whisky Challenge and discovered that more people have summited Everest and been into space than have successfully rowed the Atlantic Ocean.

“I want to test myself mentally and physically in the world’s most extreme environments,” he said this week.

“These experiences are incredibly powerful and rewarding, giving you windows into the corners of yourself you very rarely if ever get to see.  The main challenge with the row will be the mental battle, it’s what interests me the most.

“I believe in putting myself in uncomfortable positions and testing myself regularly.  It’s something I’ve done all my life and something which continues to reward me in countless ways,” said the former Connacht, Northampton, Brive, Leinster and Oyonnax player..

He has a number of chosen charities who will benefit from his marathon maritime effort – including MADRA Dog Rescue & Adoption, Médecins Sans Frontieres and the Strong Roots Foundation School Rwanda.

As part of that he is hosting the Atlantic Challenge Dinner, which will take place on Saturday, September 30, in the Ardilaun Hotel, Galway.

The Black Tie event presents a rare opportunity to hear Ireland rugby coach Joe Schmidt and Irish International and Lions defence Coach Andy Farrell speak about their experiences and lessons from the game with former Ireland and Munster star Alan Quinlan.

Exceptional auction prizes will also be available to bid on – including a round of golf with Johnny Sexton.

A four course meal which will commence with a champagne reception where guests will be entertained throughout the night by a variety of performers including Sean Costello and Frank Naughton’s Duo Vocis – all adding funds to Damien’s effort.

■ Tickets for the Atlantic Challenge Dinner are available by contacting Catherine Tiernan on 086 2546936.