Live the dream

While I was enjoying my post-work out coffee and L’Equipe a little announcement caught my eye. Sebastian Vettel’s been awarded the Grand Prix 2011 from the French Academy of Sports. Well done Seb but that wasn’t what provoked my interest. Among the various awards was one for a Brit, Anthony Smith which recognised his exceptional and original endeavour with a raft! Now the French are masters of extreme sports and there’s a number of Brits who are far more celebrated here than back in Blighty – Dame Ellen MacArthur immediately springs to mind.

When I got back home I had to look up exactly what it was that Anthony Smith had achieved. One of the many advantages of (often) being mistress of my own universe. Yes, my beloved’s fled the nest this week. Now I’m very fond of saying things like:-

  • “You’re never too old to learn something new”
  • “Life’s not a dress rehearsal”
  • “You never want to have IF ONLY on your gravestone”.

You get my drift and so does 85-year old Mr Smith.

Anthony Smith, along with his three senior companions  – David Hildred, John Russell, and Dr Andrew Bainbridge –  recruited via a newspaper advertisement, realised a long-held ambition to sail across the Atlantic in a raft.

The “An-Tiki” was constructed from four water supply pipes nearly 40 feet long, and 14 cross pipes, seven of which held the crew’s fresh water supply. It had a 40 foot mast, a 400 square foot sail, twin rudders, centreboards and oars, but crucially no engine.

All aboard

The adventure was financed by compensation Mr Smith received from being run over by a van which broke his hip and left him needing sticks to walk.

It took them 66 days, averaging four knots per day, to travel the 2,600 miles from the Canary Isles to the Dutch Caribbean island of St Maartan. The crew said they wanted to prove the elderly are capable of embarking on adventures that are mistakenly considered dangerous. They hoped their endeavour would raise £50,000 for the charity Water Aid, which provides potable water to impoverished communities.

Anthony Smith is quoted as saying: “Some people say it was mad. But it wasn’t mad. What else do you do when you get on in years?”

Captain Smith and his crew

“’Yes, of course it’s a success,” Smith said with a smile. “How many people do you know who have rafted across the Atlantic? … The word mutiny was only spoken about two or three times a day.” Doesn’t this story just gladden your heart.

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