big brass ones

big brass ones

The biennial Round Ireland Race is a clockwise circumnavigation of “Ireland and all her islands”, starting and finishing in Wicklow, a picturesque village on the east coast of the country, just south of Dublin, the capital. In a straight line (headland to headland), the course is 704 miles but, as every sailor knows, you don’t sail the straight line so distance sailed is greater than 704 miles. The race is considered to be on a par with the Fastnet in terms of prestige, without the historic notoriety, and it attracts entries from far and near, varying from big fast highly sponsored yachts to totally amateur beer can racers out for a good time.

In this year’s Round Ireland Race, one of the entrants was a boat called Daft.com, a Class 40 sponsored by a property website and double-handed by Mick Liddy and Mark Pollock. The guys finished 33rd out of 36 finishers. So what, you may ask. Well, here’s the what – Mark Pollock is totally blind.

Now, I’ve got one Round Ireland and one Fastnet under my belt, both as part of a full crew, and I would never have considered doing either with that kind of “handicap”. (I don’t believe Mark considers himself handicapped so I apologise to him or anyone who doesn’t like it for using that word, it’s meant in the literal sense.) To do the race as a double-hander is impressive by the standards of most of us amateurs. To do it as a 50% blind double-hander deserves some kind of a round of applause.

Mark’s day job is as an organisational and motivational speaker and, just by the way, he has also “raced to the South Pole over 43 days. He suffered the scorching heat of the Gobi Desert, completing six marathons in one week in "The Race of No Return". He has competed in races on the frozen Arctic Ocean at the North Pole, through the desert lowlands of the Syrian African Rift Valley to the Dead Sea and at altitude in the Himalayas on Everest.” (from his website.

It’s time to send some good wishes Mark’s way. He recently fell off someone’s balcony while walking in his sleep, (can you spell irony?), and is in hospital with multiple broken bones, internal bleeding and a possible spinal injury. At this point it’s too early to say, but there is the possibility he may not walk again. I have no doubt that, God forbid that happens, he will not let it get in his way. In my opinion, this guy deserves all the good stuff we can send his way because he is truly an inspiration. Here is the latest.

Disclaimer: I met Mark once, I have no affiliation with his organisation or the Round Ireland Race or anything else mentioned here. I just came across the story. Anarchy rules.

Black Sox