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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Devizes to Westminster 2014

First of all I think it would be polite of us to tell you a little about our dynamic duo. Tiarnán and myself (Alan) have been paddling together for quite a while, 12 years or so. We learnt the basics of kayaking at a young age from Malahide Sea Scouts, an organisation that’s close to both our hearts and one which, along Diabetes Ireland, is one of our chosen charities for this event, detail on our charities and how to donate can be found below. Over the years we completed kayak skills courses and instructor training together and were only pitted against one another when we each captained the kayak clubs of our respective universities (don’t mention inter-varsities 2013!).

                                             Photos provided by Conor Finegan 
An ‘Inspired’ Idea…
It was on a mild St. Patricks day last year when, after one too many Guinness, that we had the enlightened idea of attempting the Devises to Westminster, a legendary kayak race with a reputation for being the worlds toughest. We were inspired by two of our former leaders from Malahide Seas Scouts, Andy O’Connell and Paul Tyrrell who had completed the same race a decade previously. The advice we have received from these guys, as well as members of their support crews has been invaluable.
                                             Photos provided by Conor Finegan 
The Race
The race itself is 125 miles long and takes place on the canals west of Devises, in Wiltshire England and later along the River Thames, finishing at Westminster bridge in London. Teams of two paddle K2 (Tandem) kayaks non-stop for the duration of the race which usually takes between 20-26 hours to complete. It involves around 90,000 paddle strokes and also requires the crews to navigate (usually by walking around or ‘portaging’) 70 locks along the canal. Each team requires a support crew to provide them with food, drink and clean clothes as well as morale support throughout the race. The race takes place during the Easter bank holiday weekend and this year takes place on the 18th of April, exactly 59 days from the writing of this entry, Yikes!

                                             Photos provided by Conor Finegan 
The Charities
Malahide Sea Scouts (
Both myself and Tíarnan have been members of this remarkable youth organisation since childhood. It was volunteer leaders of Malahide Sea Scouts who first introduced us to kayaking as well as the outdoors generally. Today we both volunteer as leaders ourselves, and the organisation has grown to provide unique experiences and lessons in life to over 600 youth members. We have chosen Malahide Sea Scouts specifically because our current den, which was completed in 1984 and despite served us very well for almost 30 years, is now badly in need of repair and renovation. It has no wheelchair access, poor infrastructure, a leaking roof and is an eyesore on the shore of Malahide Estuary. The funds raised here will go towards building an extension and making the necessary improvements.
  1. A much needed new roof.
  2. Environmentally sound building.
  3. A safer compliant building.
  4. Significantly more space for storage and meeting rooms.
  5. More rooms to run specific skills training.
  6. A child friendly and disability friendly proofed building with a lift.
  7. Appropriate facilities for all the volunteers that support and give their time to our Group.
  8. A youth room.
Diabetes Ireland (
Diabetes Ireland is another great charity we have chosen to support. We are racing as part of ‘Team Diabetes’ and the funds we raise for this charity will go towards to providing support, education and motivation to all people affected by diabetes, as well as toward funding research into a cure for diabetes. I (Alan) am a type 1 diabetic and anyone who knows me will be well aware that I operate at about 150% the activity level of the average Joe. Few people, therefore know more then myself about the importance of having the right information and support available to allow you to not only to survive and be healthy but to live life to the full and achieve your goals. This is the kind of practical support and advice Diabetes Ireland is providing on the ground for people with diabetes in Ireland.

If you feel you could help support us our online donation my charity page can be found at
The training program is going better than expected, sticking to our weekly plan of a four mile sprint, 16 mile intermediate session and finally a 20 mile + session has us in great shape. On Sunday the 16th of February we put on outside the village of Rhodes and paddled 32 miles in five and a half hours into Celbridge Paddlers club. As well as being a good training session we also learnt a lot on the paddle, our idea of distances between refueling turned out to be a little optimistic which lead to both of us going through our food and hitting the wall  before reaching the support crew. We have done a good bit of practice on portages but the stretch really showed us not all locks have easy exit points and some times it is easier scrambling up the bank.

On the bright side all of the gear provided by I-canoe has been ideal, we are wearing super light and non-restricting custom Peak UK  buoyancy aids with a Marsport drinking system clipped onto the front, under that we have breathable Extrasport Xtended Wear splash cag keeping us warm and toasty without soaking us in sweat. Along with the drinking system I-Canoe also sourced box pogies and zippy decks from Marsport, without these getting in and out of the boat on the 77 portages along our rout would take twice as long. One set of Kemocraft wing paddles were kindly donated to our cause and I-canoe were able to find a matching set and both are cutting through the water nicely. The last topic in our gear talk is the boat, We have done all our training up to now in a PMB rivercraft Zambezi K2 but this is more of a downriver racer with plenty of supporting struts so after 10 years since she last completed this epic race we have been given a 16 kg Van dusen racer, her time in the shed and one too many Liffey descents had her in bad shape but we have her repaired and polished to a shiny finish, her relaunch date is this Saturday 22nd of feb . 

Only a few more weeks left to prepare so time to really get the head down. If you want to sponsor us, once again our My Charity page can be found at the following link

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