“Hero: A man distinguished by exceptional courage, nobility and fortitude … a man idealized for superior qualities” (From the Latin and Greek word, heros; Collins English Dictionary).
Last week’s theme of heroes was written to celebrate Errol Barrow day, but Friday just gone witnessed another celebration of Errol Barrow, which was a uniquely educational, inspiring and moving occasion – the splendid, erudite, almost lyrical lunch-time lecture by the Prime Minister on Mr. Barrow’s secret of leadership. Mr. Stuart spoke of the quintessential key to great leadership – not just charisma, but the ability to ask the question: “What are the overpowering problems of my time that history calls on me to resolve?” and he illustrated the determination, the skills and the successes of Mr. Barrow in resolving those issues while building the trust of the people.
But another type of hero has been much in the news this week. Heroes on the water – plucky sailors and relentless rowers.
A couple of Barbadian friends, Phil Als and Randal Valdez, caught the imagination and pride of Bajans back in 2003 when they completed the Atlantic row, coming in third that year, with a time that is quoted by the Ocean Rowing Society International as the seventh fastest – 43 days, 14 hours and 17 minutes. What manner of man will risk life and limb in a small boat against the vast ocean, unpredictable elements, sometimes mountainous seas and all the accidents that can happen, for a period of many weeks of what to most of us would be unremitting torture? Perhaps, as the mountaineers say: “Because it’s there!”
Last weekend we enjoyed the dramatic Mount Gay Rum Round Barbados Race – the perfect combination of the most authentic and famous product of Barbados, with the excitement of sailing, a passion not just for so many Bajans, but all of mankind! Oh, the call of the sea … it infected two brothers in an otherwise landlubber family of mine. (My uncles Austin and Freddie left Barbados in 1916 to train as master mariners, and spent most of their adult lives at sea, as pilots and then captains of merchant vessels, surviving German torpedoes during World War 2.) And last weekend, according to press reports there were hosts of journalists from up market sailing and lifestyle magazines on the island, spreading the word about Paradise at 13 degrees latitude.
No sooner was the last Mount Gay poured when the courageous rowers in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge race started arriving at Port St. Charles Marina. And the highlight of the race was the Row2 Recovery team. This amazing team, comprising four former soldiers with life-changing war injuries and two able-bodied colleagues. The idea of a row for charity began with Alex McKenzie and Ed Janvrin (able-bodied) and Tony Harris, who lost his leg when a roadside bomb detonated under his vehicle in Afghanistan three years ago. They decided to enter the trans-Atlantic race “to demonstrate the extraordinary things people with disabilities can achieve, and inspire others with life-altering injuries to realise their potential.” Four injured servicemen joined them.
A Sunday Times report of the 8th of January detailed the technical problems, mishaps and hardships they were having – the automatic helm failed, which meant the harder task of manual steering. The desalinator failed on Boxing Day, and they had to go on to a hand pump system, which then fell to pieces. So they had to ration food and water until a supply boat could reach them! A good way to lose weight, but not for the faint-hearted …
Happily the team arrived in port on Wednesday, to a heroes’ welcome – a journey they could only describe as “relentless”, and that will go down in the history of heroes, and Atlantic / Barbados epics.
But there’s more history to come. Barbados is lined up for yet another big race – the TRANSAT CLASSIQUE 2012, the trans-Atlantic race of classic yachts. This is a fantastic event, involving classic yachts, coordinated by the Atlantic Yacht Club based in the port of Douarnenez in France. Yachts will sail from Douarnenez and from St. Tropez in the Mediterranean to Cascais, the elegant and exotic yachting centre in Portugal, and from there on December the 2nd for Barbados. And as the brochure advertising it says: “Today the treasure awaiting the competitors of the Transat Classique is Barbados itself! What praise for the “Barbados Brand”!
Bouquets and Brickbats:
A bouquet for the Ministry of Transport for finally accepting my recommendation, offered over the past year in three mailed letters and two columns, to improve traffic flow at the vexed Wildey “Y” by painting double lines between the sharp bend and the pedestrian crossing. But the brickbat I gave them a few weeks ago must now go to those miserable, annoying, inconsiderate, rude, thoughtless, self-indulgent and selfish or blind lawbreakers who are still insisting on changing lanes as they “round the bend”, holding up traffic going East from Banks. A few need to be prosecuted as an example. But just maybe those double lines should be painted yellow, as suggested, and Gigert and Boo could do a skit to educate the rogues.