Retired Mid Ulster Council tourist chief sails across Atlantic for cancer charity

There was no chance Michael Browne would take things easy when he retired as head of tourism at Mid Ulster District Council.
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Sailing has always been close to the Magherafelt man's heart and towards the end of last year he decided to take part in the ARC+ sailing rally, a two legged journey to the Caribbean via the Cape Verde archipelago.

Michael used the adventure as an opportunity to fundraise for Laurel House at Antrim Area Hospital because of the “fabulous work they have done for many local people”.

Recently, he visited the chemotherapy unit and presented the proceeds, totalling £2,500, to staff.

Michael Browne pictured presenting staff of Laurel House at Antrim Area Hospital with a cheque for £2,500 raised from the ARC Sailing Rally in November.Michael Browne pictured presenting staff of Laurel House at Antrim Area Hospital with a cheque for £2,500 raised from the ARC Sailing Rally in November.
Michael Browne pictured presenting staff of Laurel House at Antrim Area Hospital with a cheque for £2,500 raised from the ARC Sailing Rally in November.

The unit provides an outpatient service and a day unit for the delivery of chemotherapy, and other treatments for the care of patients with cancer or haematology conditions.

"The fundraising was worthwhile and I would like to thank everyone who contributed,” he said. “The money will be put to good use at Laurel House.”

Michael was joined by members of Ballyronan Boat Club for the ARC + sailing rally - Emily Agnew, and Elwyn Agnew (skipper), and they were joined by Matt Ruiz from London and Anna Richmond from Vancouver.

Early in November they set off from Gran Canaria on a boat named Optimistic and sailed to Cape Verde for the first leg. After a quick stop they began a two week journey to Grenada.

Michael Browne (centre) pictured with other members of Ballyronan Boat Club during their trip across the Atlantic.Michael Browne (centre) pictured with other members of Ballyronan Boat Club during their trip across the Atlantic.
Michael Browne (centre) pictured with other members of Ballyronan Boat Club during their trip across the Atlantic.

“Thankfully, we didn't start the motor at all – on both legs,” said Michael. ”The first leg was the Gran Canaria down to Cape Verde. That took six days and 15 hours.

“The second leg was from Cape Verde over to Grenada. We were at sea for two weeks once we left. We didn't see land and we hardly saw any boats for two weeks. So we were just out in the mid-Atlantic making our way to the Caribbean – sailing into the sunset every day.

“We were blessed that the weather was never that bad. We didn't really hit heavy weather and it was always on our tail which was very favourable for sailing."

The Magherafelt man says he will “give it a year” before planning his next nautical adventure – possibly crossing the Pacific Ocean two years from now.

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