Record bid to raise money for endangered animal


Three cheers to the two sailors who set out across the Bass Strait between Australia and Tasmania this morning in a record-breaking bid to raise AU$100,000 (£47,000) for the critically endangered Tasmanian devil.

University of Tasmania science students Adrian Beswick, 21, and Josh Phillips, 22, are racing a small, lightweight skiff to Victoria, Australia. They set off from Stanley on Tasmania’s northwest coast in a 14 foot B14 skiff with one main sail and a spinnaker this morning.

A spokesman for their charity, Strait4Devils, said that the pair expected to make the crossing in eight hours, breaking the Bass Strait small sailing vessel crossing record of 13 hours made by Michael Blackburn in 2005 in a Laser dinghy.

Experts say that the Tasmanian devil faces extinction in the wild within 25 years due to the highly contagious and invariably fatal devil facial tumour disease.

By 2007, it had spread to 59 per cent of Tasmania, causing devil populations in those areas to decline by up to 86 per cent, figures released this year show.

The sailors have been struck by the devils’ plight and want to raise at least $100,000 to help fund research for a cure to the disease.

‘If we don’t act soon, we might loose the Tasmanian devil just like the [now extinct] Tasmanian Tiger,’ Mr Phillips said before setting off on the voyage.

“The devil should be around for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.”

Eight hours or more of continuous sailing, balanced on a trapeze, will be an extreme physical challenge for the sailors across the notoriously rough Bass Strait.

A support boat is following the men.

Donations can be made via the Strait4Devils website.