Paddle-power for unique Channel crossing

WITH just a paddle each to propel them, three friends from Suffolk are about to embark on an unusual and gruelling challenge.

Lizzie Parry

WITH just a paddle each to propel them, three friends from Suffolk are about to embark on an unusual and gruelling challenge.

The trio are planning a trip across the English Channel, from Dover to Wissant, just west of Calais, dodging ships in one of the world's busiest shipping lanes - and their vessels of choice are open canoes.

The friends will set off when conditions are right at some point between October 5 and 9.

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Simon King, 44, from Felixstowe will be joined by Dave Truzzi-Franconi, 59, from Woodbridge and Steve Seinet-Martin, 52, from Ufford near Woodbridge, in a bid to raise money for East Anglian Children's Hospices (EACH).

Mr King, a nurse at the Ipswich branch of EACH for the last eight years, said the trio were all excited about the challenge and thought they may be the first to try it in an open canoe.

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“I can't wait, we are really looking forward to it,” he said. “We all love paddling. We regularly paddle on the Deben, the Orwell and the Stour. We have paddled round the Isles of Scilly as well as the Norwegian fjords to gain more open water experience.

“But the Channel will be our biggest challenge yet, we are taking the canoes out of their natural environment, they are really designed for rivers and lakes.

“This is paddling at the limits of what is possible in open canoes, however, we are experienced, and so whilst it will depend on conditions on the day we believe it's feasible.

“I don't think it's been done before, we have had a look and no-one yet has stepped forward and said they have already done it so it is just possible we will be the first.”

Open canoes have no deck and are effectively an open boat; a single bladed paddle is used on one side of the boat to move it forward.

They will have to paddle between 20 and 25 miles, depending on the tides, for up to 10 hours.

The three men have enlisted the support of an experienced pilot, who has tracked various cross channel attempts by kayaks and swimmers, as well as an escort vessel and crew.

The attempt will help raise money for EACH which has cared for 334 families across East Anglia in the last year, delivering over 57,000 hours of care and support for local children with life threatening illnesses.

Mr King said: “I have worked for EACH for some time now and we wanted to raise the profile of the charity as well as raising money for them.

“On the day whilst paddling I shall think of the brave children and their families. The strength and courage within those children is far greater than we may need.”

A spokesman for EACH said: “This is some feat that Simon and his friends are facing up to and the charity is very grateful for their selfless act in helping to raise funds and awareness for EACH.”

Mr King has set up an online fundraising page, where people can pledge their online support.

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