Kayaking Challenges: Paddling 1300km in handmade kayaks

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Ever fancied taking on kayaking challenges way beyond what you’ve done before? Think you can paddle for days on end and live out of your boat? Great, now try it in handmade kayaks you’ve built yourself…

That’s exactly what ‘The Greenland Cowboys’, a two-man team of Richie Bracey and Lee Taylor are about to do. The intrepid pair will kayak 750 nautical miles (1300km) from Gibraltar to France along Spain’s Mediterranean coast in April.

After building their kayaks in UK, they’ll transport them to Gibraltar ahead of a marathon expedition Paddle de los Torros to help raise money for Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion.

Good effort! Here’s more…

The route follows the coastline of Gibraltar and Spain through the Alboran Sea, and then further north into the Med before ending at Portbou. Along the route they will also circumnavigate the island of Tabarca, which lies off of the Costa Blanca coast near the mid-way point.

It should take them around a month and they will make their way using traditional Greenland paddles.

The pair have trained all winter for what will be a tough challenge: 28 days of paddling 7 hours a day! The UK weather made life hard for them as they pushed to get fit enough in brutal conditions.

Rich, kayaking blogger at Kayaking Holidays.com, is well practiced at living out of his boat – other than one scheduled resupply, he’ll carry everything he needs aboard.

Lee, a forestry worker by trade, is in this for the challenge and the pair are keen to support Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion, raising money as they go.

Despite being warmer than UK waters, the route has real challenges: The Mediterranean Sea can be very rough at times with weather squalls coming from seemingly nowhere to whip it into some quite hazardous conditions, with dumping surf and high winds forcing the water ahead of it.

And the pair will be forced to push on testing their endurance to the limit in order to complete the challenge.

Rich explains: “Although we have software to predict the current flow for the Med, it is all from computer generated models. A lot of the time we will be us using our experience and judgment to see if we continue paddling or not, and if the current is favourable, we will be going onward instead of getting that cuppa or our heads down.”

Kayaking in Gibraltar is popular, but it’s rare to see these beautiful handmade boats wherever you take to the water.

And there’s plenty of people who don’t understand why you’d go to all the effort to build something you could buy off the shelf.

“Wooden boats are durable, lightweight and elegant, and with the right care last a very long time even being used on expeditions (I know of someone still paddling a Stitch and Glue kayak built in the 60’s)”

“And should you get a little adventurous and damage your boat it will be easily repairable, and in the case of strip-built boats the repair usually becomes unnoticeable” says Rich.

A former soldier in the British Army (1RHA), Rich fell on hard times after he left the services, and was helped by The Royal British Legion – so it’s his turn to give something back.

 

And he’s a point to prove about the quality of his hand crafted wooden kayaks vs newer designs:

“People have always stopped me when I’ve been paddling, and asked things like “You’re not going out in this in that are you?” and “Isn’t that a bit fragile to be in around those rocks as it’s made of wood ?” And I’ve answered “Yes I am!” and “No it’s not!” – and with this exped we’re sure he’ll prove it.

For more information and to help donate to Help For Heroes and the Royal British Legion, please look at Team Los Toros.

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