Two Brighton based former Royal Marines and Falkland veterans who plan to kayak around the Falkland Islands in 2016 for charity faced their first major challenge this weekend at they competed in the grueling Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race.
Steve Grenham and Mick Dawson began their 125 mile kayak at 10.30am on Saturday morning in Devizes, finishing shortly before 7.30pm on Sunday evening outside the Houses of Parliament. Their official race time was 32 hours, 54 minutes and 24 seconds, and Mick and Steve were placed second in the “Folding Kayak” class.
The pair competed in the race in a folding WWII Klepper style kayak. This is a nod to the Royal Marines who died during Operation Frankton in World War Two, later immortalised in the film Cockleshell Heroes. Although the kayak was non-stop, with the duo kayaking throughout the night, they did have to get out of the water 77 times over the route to carry the 70kg kayak over locks.
The Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race is just the beginning of a grueling training regime for Mick and Steve, designed to prepare the Cockleshell Endeavour duo for a circumnavigation of the 650 miles of unforgiving coastline of the Falkland Islands in early 2016 in kayaks. This challenge is set to take about 30 days, will see the Falkland veterans tackle freezing conditions, wildlife including sharks and whales, and unexploded mines left over from the conflict.
The four other training challenges are kayaking the Caledonian Canal, The Yukon River Quest in June of 2015, a circumnavigation of The Isle of Mann and then a circumnavigation of Ireland.
The Cockleshell Endeavour is not just designed to test the pair physically. Mick and Steve will be using the next 18 months to highlight and explore the issues of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Steve Grenham has been fighting a long battle with the condition and has struggled to find an effective treatment. It is hoped that the Cockleshell Endeavour will create a structure and purpose that will help him on the road to recovery as he meets the incredible demands of this challenge, whilst also putting a spotlight on the hugely relevant subject of PTSD as a whole in the service community.
The Cockleshell Endeavour will also be raising funds Care After Combat, a new charity set up to support service leavers and their families. To donate to the charity, visit www.justgiving.com.cockleshellendeavour
Mick Dawson has twice rowed the Atlantic Ocean and, five years ago, was one half of the only crew to have ever successfully rowed the Pacific Ocean. He says:
“The Devizes to Westminster was a fantastic event to compete in and it put all the kayaking skills we have gained over the past five months to the test. We were racing against experienced canoeists and kayakers and as novice kayakers it really challenged us. However the support we received from our friends, family and members of the public kept us going.
“We have less than a year until we kayak around the Falkland Islands which will push us to our limits. Competing in training events such as the Devizes to Westminster are essential if we are to be fully prepared for the challenges facing us in the South Atlantic.”