World's Longest Handshake Record Within Grasp

World's Longest Handshake Record Within Grasp

A good, firm handshake shouldn't last more than two or three seconds. Any longer and it starts to get a bit awkward. Unless, of course, you're trying to set a world record.

Last night, four teams of two from around the world congregated in New York's Times Square attempting to set a new Guinness World Record for the Longest Continuous Handshake.

The event began Friday just after 8 p.m. outdoors in Father Duffy Square amidst frigid 24-degree weather and will carry on until the last team breaks the gentlemanly bond. Proceeds raised from donations will go to the charities of each team's choice.

Marc Hartzman for AOL
New Zealand's Don Purdon (left) and Alastair Galpin (right) hope to be the last team shaking and take ownership of a new Guinness World Record. Sitting is allowed, as is sleeping, provided one partner continues to power the shake.
The competition is the brainchild of 21-year-old John-Clark Levin of Ojai, Calif., who set a handshaking record in May 2009 while attending Claremont McKenna College. He and a college friend shook hands for 10 hours, 10 minutes, 10 seconds.

"We did it with very little prep, more or less on a whim," Levin told AOL News. "We thought it'd be good to break a Guinness record and raise money for cancer in the process."

The following September, while their record was still in the review process with Guinness, Levin learned that a team of Australian chums bested their record with a time of 12 hours, 34 minutes, 56 seconds. They, too, shook on behalf of a charity.

Determined to win back their record, the Claremont McKenna team roared back a month later with a 15-hour, 15-minute, 15-second shake.

According to Guinness, that record was also broken. It currently lists the record as 15 hours, 30 minutes, 45 seconds, achieved by Matthew Rosen and Joe Ackerman of the U.K., on Nov. 21, 2009.

Levin says a team from Nepal also broke their record.

Rather than allowing the global one-upsmanship to continue, Levin decided to extend his hand to all the teams -- along with a few new contenders -- for a winner-take-all competition.

Teams compete in New York's Times Square for the world's longest handshake."We form a balanced team: his enthusiasm and energy, and my more measured and considered temperament," Purdon said. "But one thing we have in common is a New Zealand mental resilience and toughness that will keep us going when the chips are down."

"It would be better all around to gather, same place, same time, start shaking, last hand wins," he said. "It would have a greater impact for fundraising and awareness for the various causes these people have been supporting."

Levin has a new partner and co-organizer in Joe Luchsinger, a student at Baldwin-Wallace University. The two have met only once in Luchsinger's hometown of Bexley, Ohio. However, during that meeting they shook hands for 20 hours. The shake began in the evening, lasted through the night and an Ohio State football game the next day. They're competing on behalf of Teach for America.

"We're feeling great so far," Levin said shortly after the competition began. "But Robert Frost's words come readily to mind: miles to go, in this case hours to go, maybe even days to go, before we sleep."

One of the new teams determined to outshake Levin and Luchsinger hails from Auckland, New Zealand.

Half of that team features Alastair Galpin, 36, who holds the distinction of being the second biggest Guinness World Record breaker over the past decade. His nearly 100 records include the longest light bulb throw (94 feet) and the fastest time to shell one hard-boiled egg (18.95 seconds).

He's been preparing for this event since early December. His partner, 49-year-old Don Purdon, signed on just weeks ago and hopes to achieve his first world record. Together, they'll shake to raise money for the Auckland Down Syndrome Association.

"My attitude is I'll go until I collapse or until I win with a bang," Galpin said.

A mere ten minutes into the competition, with nine layers of clothing, he and Purdon were off to a good start.

"The key thing's gonna be the weather and how cold it gets in the middle of the night," Purdon said, who was armed with six layers.

Galpin held a previous record for the Longest Continuous Handshake, partnered with "a muscle-y young man" for nine hours, 19 minutes. "It was fun -- even urinating and being fed coffee," he said. "We were successful."

Prior to this current attempt, he consulted a sports doctor, physiologist, gym trainers and endurance specialists and believes he's mentally and physically ready. His training routine involved hours of shaking a sandwich spread bottle with his right arm wrapped in ice packs.

"People were staring, and some even dodging me, as I walked along in the 25- to 35-degree Celsius weather," he said in regards to his unorthodox technique. "If they knew what lay in store, they'd be doing it, too."

And while his partner is new to the world record world, he believes he's up to the task. Purdon, who runs his own design consultant company, has competed in other endurance events.

All participants will have to follow strict rules to remain in the competition. Hands must maintain a shaking motion at all times -- even if a bathroom break should be necessary. Guinness forbids any incontinence devices or nappies, and a video crew must attend any trips to a toilet.

For these reasons, Levin admitted during previous attempts that "we felt it was better to hold it in."

Teams can eat and drink, provided they can manage it with one hand or receive help from someone else.

But what about the inevitable sweat? Moisture could prove dangerous to the grip. When needed, Levin plans to adjust his hold just enough to allow rubbing alcohol to be sprayed between the hands.

"As it evaporates it dries the palms quickly," he explained. "So we can have a dry, firm grip."

An official Guinness adjudicator is on site to document the competition and uphold the rules.

"The people who train for these records are just incredibly motivated," Levin said. "With media surrounding, a live feed and thousands of passersby right here in Times Square, a lot of pride, a lot of charity, they're not going to go down easily. I expect the current record to go down by quite a lot."

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