PICS: Soweto local to row an ocean with Riaan Manser

Published Nov 6, 2018


Following a gruelling challenge that involved a 5-day boot camp, Fanafikile Lehakha has been selected to take part in The Odyssey Row competition with Riaan Manser.

Lehakha, from Soweto, was selected from 15 000 entrants and will get an opportunity to row across the Atlantic Ocean with the acclaimed explorer. 

Manser has cycled 34 000km around the perimeter of Africa, kayaked around both Madagascar and Iceland successfully crossed the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Speaking of his selection, Lehakha said he was blessed and excited to be given the opportunity to take part in the competition. 

Lehakha’s story is an inspirational one. 

He was born in Phuthaditjhaba in the Free State where he stayed in a shack with his mother and sibling for years until she died in 1999.

To remove the burden from his grandmother, his aunt moved moved him to Lenasia, south of Joburg, where he matriculated at Topaz Secondary School in 2005 before going on to study Chemical Engineering at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). 

Lehakha graduated in 2010. 

Preparing for the challenge, the father to 17-month old twin girls and his six-year-old nephew is undergoing weeks of physical preparation that includes intense training focused on static rowing machines, fitness and a week’s swimming training by Ryk Neethling at the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation.

Mental preparation will involve accepting the reality that they will be alone and unaided with no support boat in sight for 45 days on the Atlantic Ocean.

On the technical side, organising of satellite communication and navigational equipment is currently underway. 

Solar power will be the form of power supply to all needed electrical equipment on the expedition.

Speaking of the upcoming challenge, Manser said, "although this is my third crossing of an ocean, I am still mindful and nervous it being Fanafikile’s first time”.

The duo leaves on November 19 for the Canary Islands where they will continue with final on-water training and the packing of the boat. 

The estimated departure date is set for the first week in December.


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