From Tunisia to Malta in aid of Puttinu Cares

Monday, June 28, 2010, 6:06

By Wilfred Sultana

The beauty of sport is that athletes use their talent for their own fulfilment and for the happiness of others. On a number of occasions the prime objectives of sportsmen go beyond their personal satisfaction – the ultimate aspiration is to be the source of creating the awareness and support for a cause.

And that is exactly what the Maltese twosome of Albert Gambina and Dorian Vassallo plan to do next month: Kayaking from Mahdia in Tunisia to Golden Bay in Malta via the islands of Lampedusa and Linosa, a distance more or less 175 nautical miles or 324 kilometres, primarily seeking to raise awareness and funds for Puttinu Cares, the Children’s Cancer Support Group.

Albert Gambina and Dorian Vassallo

Albert Gambina and Dorian Vassallo

This initiative, which came to be known as “Kayak for Cancer”, knows its origin to the endeavour of a keen kayaker, Dorian Vassallo, who initiated a sea kayak endurance challenge – crossing the Malta Channel – as a way of generating funds for charity. The first event held in 2008, saw 7 kayaks paddling from Marsalforn to Pozzallo. During this experience more than €30,000 were raised in aid of the Malta Cancer Foundation.

The approximately 175 nautical miles crossing will be made up of two long passages – Mahdia to Lampedusa and Linosa to Malta that will involve some 24 hours of paddling on each route. The distance between Lampedusa and Linosa is 25 miles and should take from 6 to 8 hours to cover.

The Gambina-Vassallo team will be joined on this daring challenge by two other squads, one from Tunisia and another one from Italy. Logistic support is crucial in such open sea long distance marathons and here four yachts, namely, “Tallulah”, “Katy Jane”, “Destrier” and “Nicesca” skippered by Capt Joe Brincat, Ivan Grech Mintoff, Alfred Vassallo and Edmond Cachia respectively will see to the teams’ safety and movement.

With the kayaks loaded onto the support vessels departure from Malta is scheduled for the 15th July. Weather permitting the crossing is planned to start from Mahdia on Saturday 17th July, timed to coincide with the “Fete de la Mer”, the festival of the sea being held in the Tunisia sea-side resort between the 17th and 22nd July. Taking into account the stops in Lampedusa and Linosa – and with the goodwill of the three Greek mythology related gods of Zeus, Poseidon and Anemoi – the kayakers hope to make it to Ir-Ramla tal-Mixquqa – Golden Bay – around Thursday 22nd July.

As can be imagined, an event of this type requires detailed and meticulous planning especially in view of the fact that the paddlers will be passing through two other countries territorial waters. Dorian and Albert, as the protagonists and organisers of the event, are most grateful for the assistance extended towards the eventual happening of this crossing by the Maltese Ambassador in Tunisia, Dr Vicki Ann Cremona who was instrumental in making contact and sort out the necessary arrangements with the Tunisian authorities and the Tunisian Canoe-Kayak Federation. The Ambassadors of Tunisia and Italy in Malta have also given their support to this initiative.

Other support has also been extended by the Malta Sports Council (KMS), the Malta Canoe Federation, Transport Malta, the Luqa Meteorological Office, the Armed Forces of Malta, Medcomms Ltd, Virtu Ferries Ltd and the Tunisian Ministry of Youth and Sports.

Dorian and Albert also have two personal sponsors; Sullivan Maritime Limited and AB Vituddens Kanotvarv of Sweden.

The Tunisia-Malta “Kayak for Cancer” event is being held under the Distinguished Patronage of His Excellency Dr George Abela, President of Malta.

Donations related to this activity are to be made by cheque, made payable to “Puttinu Cares Foundation”, and addressed to: Kayak For Cancer, Puttinu Cares Foundation, c/o MaltaPost p.l.c., 305 Triq Hal-Qormi, Marsa MTP 1001.

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