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HMS Kent sailors paddle for Sittingbourne children's charity Demelza

Sailors from HMS Kent are swapping their state-of-the-art frigate for kayaks for a four-day challenge to help seriously ill children.

Crew of the Portsmouth-based warship, who have recently been practising their submarine hunting skills off Iceland, plan to paddle 145 miles on the waterways between Bristol and north London raising money for the Sittingbourne-based Demelza Hospice Care for Children.

Kayakers from HMS Kent will be paddling 145 miles to raise money for Sittingbourne-based Demelza Hospice Care for Children
Kayakers from HMS Kent will be paddling 145 miles to raise money for Sittingbourne-based Demelza Hospice Care for Children

The ship has been associated with the charity, which runs hospices in Kent, south-east London and East Sussex for children with terminal illnesses and their families, throughout her 20-year career, with sailors regularly visiting the homes to meet youngsters and hand over the proceeds of fund-raising efforts.

The latest money-spinner is the brainchild of leading hand Cyndi Dodd, leading physical trainer Holly Cole and sub-lieutenant Joshua Ward. They’ll be joined by six shipmates on the challenge.

The crew will be not only be testing themselves but trying to raise at least £1,000 for Demelza, particularly in the wake of the pandemic.

Spokesman Stephen Weatherill said: "Like many charities, Demelza has had to furlough staff and has suffered from a dramatic hit to normal fundraising efforts."

Holly and Joshua are undertaking a paddle sports leader course so they can safely take the team along the waterways. Holly has also been putting the kayakers through their paces in strength and endurance training during the frigate’s spring-summer deployments to the Arctic, Atlantic and Baltic.

The route will take the paddlers along the entire length of the Kennet and Avon Canal beginning in eastern Bristol on Fridayand ending 87 miles later where it meets the Thames in Reading.

They will continue 31 miles downstream until they reach Windsor where they will move on foot to the Grand Union Canal and continue through Slough, Paddington and finally reach the Regent’s Canal ending up at Camden Lock.

The paddlers reckon they can cover 40 miles a day, spending 12 hours in their kayak and completing the journey inside four days.

To support them visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/hmskentops. You can follow their progress on the ship's Twitter feed @HMS_Kent

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