How did we do it?

Here are a few details of how to put together a WORLD RECORD BREAKING 420 mile  challenge, paddling from Skipton (North Yorkshire) to Bristol (South West of England on the inland waterways.

We will be starting on Saturday 7 September 2013 and finish in Bristol on Tuesday 8 October 2013. As on the 2010 Gutless Kayaking challenge, Justin and Skibum will be paddling the whole route. Other guest paddlers are making appearances along the way. We’re hoping there will be four of us on the water every day. This time we also have a double kayak with us for various celebrity supporters. Most of the paddlers from 2010 are returning for more punishment and this year we should have our first female paddler joining the crew.

I’m a few years older and out of shape, plus we’re paddling 420 miles, so training for this trip is a lot more serious. The University of Brighton has come to my rescue and is providing me with access to their gyms as well as the help and guidance of Charlotte, one of their expert personal trainers.

Deciding upon the route has taken a lot more effort than the Manchester to London trip in 2010. This is because this year we are also paddling on tidal rivers (Trent, Avon). It’s really important to make sure we paddle the tidal sections when the tide is in our favour (that is, pushing us in the direction we want to go). So, after liasing with lock keepers and varying other experts (many thanks to Terry Oliver for his help on his river, the Trent) we have been able to finalise the dates. As I write, some of the locks on the Avon are currently closed but the Canal and River Trust (formerly British Waterways) assures me they will be open when we paddle through in October. I guess that remains to be seen.

We anticipate this trip taking 30 days of paddling and we have set aside 2 rest days. The NCBA  have provided us with the use of their narrow boat, Merlot. And along with the support of the NABO we are hoping to secure the use of a second narrow boat. If this second boat somehow doesn’t materialise then we will be relying on the hospitality and good will of friends, hotels, pubs and b&bs as we go. Justin will be carrying his tent and camping gear at all time  in case of emergencies.

The whole trip is about 420 miles. There are 280 locks and 7 tunnels to be negotiated. So, we’ll be getting in and out of the kayaks a lot, which means there will probably be quite a bit of unintended swimming. This is traditionally Skibum’s area of expertise. Since Justin will be feeding whilst paddling and perhaps capsizing, CME-Medical (medical pump manufacturers) and Guy Portelli have been working on waterproofing (including nano coating) for Justin’s electrical pump. To help with on land manoeuvres of the kayaks, HandiWorld have provided us with kayak trolleys (HandiKart) as well as HandiRacks to transport the kayaks.

Justin has to carry out an aseptic procedure to connect and disconnect his feed. He will do this twice every day. There’s a mountain of equipment needed to accomplish this so we will be carrying a lot of spares. However, because we don’t want to lug around amost five weeks worth of medical gear, every couple of days Bupa Home Healthcare will be delivering supplies of medical equipment to Justin on the waterways. Justin’s liquid nutrition has to be kept between 2 and 8 degress, so Bupa will put a fridge into our hospital ship, Merlot, for this purpose.

Before all this, however, Justin and the other paddlers have to get in shape. Justin has been sponsored by the University of Brighton, through use of their gyms and provision of a personal trainer, which he currently fears may be a painful experience. Justin likes to imagine that his fellow paddlers are already well immersed in their own, unique, training programs.

All financial donations go directly to St. Mark’s Foundation.

We are funding this trip ourselves, although some equipment has been provided by supporters.