Rower attempts double record crossing

By Carly Gibbs

A Tauranga man is preparing for the challenge of his life - a record-breaking transtasman crossing.

Danny Sunkel, who until a year ago had never attempted rowing, will next year navigate his way to Australia in possibly the most ingenuous ocean-rowing boat ever built.

The vessel, which will be unveiled today at the Auckland Boat Show, is the first trimaran in the world able to right itself after being capsized.

Early next year Mr Sunkel, from Brookfield, is going to use the vessel to attempt the first ever solo double-crossing of the Tasman, from the Hokianga to Queensland and back.

He said he would return in either September or October, and leave from New South Wales.

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The current record was 63 days to Australia and 54 days back, but Mr Sunkel had set himself a goal to do the crossing in less than 45 days each way.

If he succeeded in rowing his way to Australia and back, he would be the first person to do it.

Colin Quincey and his son Shaun held the current records for rowing the Tasman, one each way. Colin Quincey made the journey from Hokianga Harbour to Marcus Beach in 63 days in 1977. Shaun did the return trip in 2010, from Coffs Harbour to 90 Mile Beach, in 54 days.

Just like Shaun Quincey, Mr Sunkel was inspired by his father. Mr Sunkel's dad, Alan, died of adrenal cancer when Mr Sunkel was 17. His family also had a history of bowl cancer and Mr Sunkel's challenge was to raise funds for cancer research.

He planned to review some of the cancer research being done in New Zealand and then shortlist between one and three projects to support.

His boat, built with help from product sponsors, was designed by Auckland-based Lomocean. They drew up the plans for Pete Bethune's Earthrace and the first solar-powered boat to circumnavigate the world, which completed the feat this month.

Mr Sunkel said the idea to set himself such an ambitious challenge was first spawned six years ago when he read The Naked Rower by Rob Hamill. It became something serious three years ago when he read his second inspirational rowing book Adventures of a Fat Boy Rower by Kevin Biggar. He arranged to meet Mr Biggar who encouraged his dream.

Mr Sunkel moved to Tauranga a year ago from Auckland and lived on his own for six months - on purpose - to adjust to being in his own company.

His solo trip next year would see him living in the boat, measuring 11.77m in length and 2.29m in width. It had two cabins and the rear cabin would be set up to sleep in. The vessel had an outside cockpit and safety rails, meaning Mr Sunkel could stand up and be supported.

He would start official training in the boat in the next three to four weeks, starting off with day rows, building up to overnight. Tauranga residents could expect to see Mr Sunkel and his boat in the waters around Tauranga.

He said there was no denying the task he had set himself was "huge" but he was up for the challenge.

He was considering a Pacific Ocean voyage as a test voyage before setting off to conquer the perilous Tasman.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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