By Theresa Goodwin
All roads will lead to the historic Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour this evening where thousands of residents will converge for the much-anticipated arrival of the Team Antigua Island Girls who are on the final leg of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Row Challenge, dubbed the world’s toughest row.
Kevinia Francis, Elvira Bell, Christal Clashing and Samara Emmanuel set off from La Gomera, Canary Islands, on 12 December 2018 for the 3,000-mile journey that culminates at English Harbour.
They are expected to dock some time between early afternoon and early evening.
Throughout the duration of the journey there has been an outpouring of love and support for the all-female team which is seeking to raise funds for the Cottage of Hope, a shelter which offers short and long-term residency to girls who are abused, neglected or orphaned.
The Antigua and Barbuda Marine Association (ABMA) was one of the entities to join in solidarity with the quartet of pioneering females by organising a rowing event at the Antigua Yacht Club where four rowing machines were set up and individuals invited to row for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour. For each time slot, various monetary donations were made – $28 for 15 minutes, $35 for 30 minutes, and $50 for one hour.
Media personality Petra Williams also pledged on social media that she would do push-ups every day until the female rowers arrive back home. On the weekend Williams stated, “Not sure which I am happier for, Team Antigua Island Girls are one day out or the last days of push-ups!!! Their persistence through many challenges has been amazing. A definite beacon and reminder to all of us that even though life gets rough, buckle down and do it”.
Noted soca artiste Claudette “CP” Peters launched a no-sugar campaign, intended to last until the team’s arrival. Renowned soca artiste King Onyan of ‘Burning Flames’ fame did a remake of the 1989 Island Girl hit in honour of the first all-female black rowing team.
Schools and other organisations hosted their own events and posted videos on the team’s Facebook page under the caption #RowandComeEen!. Nationals have been purchasing Team Antigua Island Girls shirts as a show of support.
On Thursday the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda disclosed that today’s Budget Debate will be shortened as parliamentarians from both sides journey to English Harbour to welcome the team.
Meanwhile, Jacqui Southwell Williams, a marketing consultant with the National Parks Authority, is advising residents that the authority will be offering a park-and-ride service in anticipation of the traffic that is expected at English Harbour.
She said people will be asked to park in specified locations and board a shuttle that will be available. The authority is also warning against the use of drones at English Harbour this evening.