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Ask & Tell: Victor Mooney

Ask & Tell: Victor Mooney


Queens, N.Y.'er Victor Mooney will launch an attempt on World AIDS Day, December 1, to solo a rowboat from the east coast of Africa to Brooklyn in a mission to raise HIV awareness and funding for AIDS research. Mooney's first two attempts at the transatlantic crossing, dubbed the Gor'e Challenge, failed. In May 2006 the craft he constructed in his garage was unknowingly damaged at launch and sank after only a few hours at sea, and in April 2009 the second effort also required a rescue mission. But neither failure has dampened Mooney's enthusiasm. Now at 45, with a high-tech boat donated by a French rower, he says he's just as committed to the challenge he's created for himself as we was his first time out. Initially you planned the challenge in honor of your brothers'one who died of AIDS and another who is HIV-positive'and you launched from Gor'e Island to highlight the spot where slaves were taken from Africa. Has that focus evolved any?
My central focus has always been to increase awareness about HIV prevention and to encourage testing so that people get into care if they need it. The number of new infections diagnosed each year isn't decreasing, and many people who are infected live unaware of their HIV status until their health reaches a critical point. With your earlier attempts ending with some harrowing results, does that give you any second thoughts or heighten your fear now?
No. I've dedicated a considerable amount of time and resources for this undertaking'nearly seven years. I'll make it because I refuse to give up in the fight against AIDS. What's the route that you plan to travel?
I'm departing from S'o Vicente, one of the islands of the Republic of Cape Verde. The country spans an archipelago of 15 islands located in the central Atlantic Ocean. Cape Verde is about 300 miles west of Senegal, [where Gor'e Island, the previous launch for the mission, was]. From Cape Verde to Brooklyn, where I'll complete the trip at the Brooklyn Bridge, is about 5,000 miles. And that's without any breaks on land?
I'm prepared to go nonstop to Brooklyn; however, if a resupply or any other circumstance is warranted, my support team will direct me to the nearest port of call. As I approach the Caribbean, I'll head north toward Puerto Rico, then farther west toward the Bahamas, where I'll enter the Gulf Stream'the strong northward moving ocean current'near Florida and work my way to Brooklyn. How long is all of this going to take?
Six to eight months. Your boat'how technologically advanced is it?
It's not the typical rowboat that might spring to people's minds, is it? Yeah, that's right. On board I'll have a satellite phone, a wind turbine and solar panels to generate energy, GPS tracking, radar equipment, a computer, VHF radio, and an iPod. And how is the fund-raising going? Our goal is $50,000, and we have reached nearly half of this in pledges. This effort seems to never stop, once you make the decision to go forward. Thanks to over 80 companies that have provided products and services, the cost of this particular undertaking is considerably lower. Without their support, this mission couldn't proceed. Is there anything else that you'd like to share with HIV Plus readers?
In Wolof, a traditional language spoken in Senegal and some other African countries, one often hears the phrase 'amoul bayi.' It translates as 'never give up.' Well, Never Give Up (my boat) and I hope to see you at the Brooklyn Bridge'rain or shine.

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