Ipswich: Royal Navy man plans to kayak around the UK in world record attempt
A Royal Navy man from Ipswich plans to take to the high seas in a smaller craft than usual next year when he attempts to circumnavigate the UK in a kayak.
Tom Welham, from Whitton, hopes to set a new world record by paddling between 2500 and 3000 miles around the British Isles, including the west coast of Ireland.
Although the project is just getting off the ground, he has already received permission from the navy to take three months leave in 2015 for the challenge.
The current world record is held by former Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton for her 2,010 mile kayak along the Amazon River.
Tom, a father of one who has served as a stores accountant on HMS Edinburgh and HMS Illustrious, also hopes to raise money for the East Anglian Children’s Hospice in the process.
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Before joining the navy over three years ago Tom used to run the Maypole pub in Whitton with his father Shaun, and has since set up his own company to provide adventure challenges in the UK.
Although not an experienced kayaker, Tom is no stranger to physical tests.
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He’s completed the three peaks challenge – climbing the UK’s three highest mountains – three times, most recently in August last year. In 2009 he cycled 1000 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats. The following year he took on the Hadrian’s Wall Path Run and then he completed the 400 mile Coast to Coast walk.
He expects this challenge to be the hardest yet not just physically but mentally.
“It’s usually me and friend or me and a colleague,” said Tom. “However this challenge has to be done by a single person, so it’ll be more of a mental challenge.
“Me and my friend who did the cycle together, as soon as we finished the cycle we were looking for the next challenge and we thought of this. That’s been on the back shelf since then because obviously we’ve joined the Royal Navy.
“It was an opportunity for me to move up into something a bit more challenging and I always wanted to do something for EACH because I know about the great work they do.
“The biggest problem so far has been getting it off the ground and finding the time to do it.”
One of the stipulations made by the Guinness Book of Records is that Tom may not stop for longer than 48 hours. As such he plans to develop a network of people around the UK coast who can provide shelter or a hot meal at short notice if he needs to put in for the night at a remote spot. Nonetheless he anticipates having to camp and sleep on beaches at times.
Tom admitted being nervous about the challenge: “I think mentally the biggest part is going to be doing it by yourself for long periods of time.
“Whenever I have had it tough before in previous challenges I’ve had others there to pick me up but now I’m going to have to be able to pick myself up.”