#ADVENTURE – This summer blind adventure-athlete Mark Pollock and local sailor Tiffany Brien aim to sail across the Irish Sea in order to raise funds for the Mark Pollock Trust and Belfast Lough Sailability.
Sailing across the relentless Irish Sea would be challenging enough for a regular sailor but 36-year-old Mark, who has been blind since 22, was also paralysed in a freak accident in 2010. That makes their crossing quite a significant challenge.
Luckily Mark is not shy of a challenge as during the last decade he has competed in the harshest environments on the planet. He survived sub-zero Antarctic temperatures to become the first blind person to reach the South Pole. He suffered in scorching heat, running six marathons in the Gobi Desert in one week. He has completed The North Pole marathon, raced through the desert lowlands of the Syrian African Rift Valley to the Dead Sea and competed at high-altitude in the Everest Marathon.
Mark has competed against professional explorers like Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Olympic gold medalists and Special Forces personnel; all able-bodied athletes. And he did so in a world of total darkness. After a life threatening fall two years ago, Mark is now competing against his spinal cord injury. Paralysed from the waist down, Mark's aim is to defy the odds to walk again.
The Mark Pollock Trust hopes to raise funds to assist with the capital and on-going costs specifically associated with Mark's spinal injury – including a team of care specialists, physiotherapy equipment, visits to Spinal Injury recovery centres and wheelchairs.
Mark states: "This will be my first big physical challenge since I was paralysed so I am really looking forward to giving it my best shot. I used to sail before my accident so I can't wait to get back out on the water."
The challenge is scheduled for the beginning of June and Mark and Tiffany will be sailing a specially-adapted SKUD yacht (the new Paralympic class) which Tiffany purchased for the Belfast Lough Sailability charity following her solo sailing challenge in 2007.
Tiffany comments: "Mark is a real inspiration so I am honoured to have the chance to participate in this challenge alongside him. His determination is infectious and I have no doubt we will achieve our goal of crossing the Irish Sea to raise valuable funds for the Mark Pollock Trust and Belfast Lough Sailability."
Belfast Lough Sailability helps people with disabilities learn new skills, enjoy the freedom of sailing, and potentially achieve their ultimate goal of reaching the Paralympic Games.
Sponsors of the Mark Pollock Irish Sea Challenge include, Belfast Harbour, BTWCairns, Priory Press, Navigator Blue Ltd and Eyekiller.
To support the Mark Pollock Irish Sea Challenge you can donate online at www.irishseachallenge.co.uk.