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Gale-force winds delay start of transatlantic rowing challenge

Disappointment as teams told 3,000-mile race will not start before Wednesday morning.

The start of an endurance race dubbed the world’s toughest row has been postponed at the 11th hour due to gale-force winds.

The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge’s fleet of 25 teams – including many from the UK and Ireland – were informed about two hours before competitors were due to leave La Gomera in the Canary Islands bound for Antigua in the Caribbean.

Briefing the crews, who had spent two years preparing for the challenge, race director Carsten Horen Olsen said another decision would be made on Wednesday morning.

He said: “It’s quite mixed feelings that I have to announce to you that the race start will be delayed.”

Duty officer Ian Couch said winds of up to 40 knots on leaving the harbour would be a “baptism of fire” that would potentially put some crews in danger.

He said: “You know full well we don’t mind putting you out there if it’s going to be scary, or it’s going to be bumpy, or it’s going to be tough.

“But there has to be a line drawn between that and foolhardy.

“We accept there is going to be an element of risk with what you’re going to do, but if we are going to put you into conditions which have escalated and changed overnight, that would be wrong.

“Some of you might be able to cope with that, at this stage, as a baptism of fire, that will be too much for some of you. We are risking capsize and abandonment at a time which is unnecessary.

“You are currently in a safe port and to put you out into that would be wrong.”

Former Ireland rugby player Damian Browne and four-time Invictus Games gold medal winner Jordan Beecher are among those lining up their fibreglass vessels in La Gomera for the start of the charity race.

Another team, Saddle Sand Sea, are using the water-based challenge to complete a unique endurance triathlon.

Crews will not leave before Wednesday morning, although race organisers have warned the start could be delayed further.

The 2013 Atlantic Challenge was postponed by two days, while the 2015 race was delayed by four days due to poor weather.

:: To follow the race, visit TaliskerWhiskyAtlanticChallenge.com

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