Two men from Henley are set to tackle a 125 mile canoe challenge in aid of charity. Over the Easter weekend, Chris Bishop and Paul Reynolds will paddle from Devizes to Westminster for Alzheimer’s Research UK and MS UK, hoping to raise £10,000. The pair are undertaking the four day expedition in memory of their fathers, who both died from dementia.
The brave duo, known as Team Forget Me Not, have been training since last summer, ready to conquer the demanding Devizes to Westminster International Canoe race. Chris is no stranger to the event, having previously competed in 2016. Unfortunately, the journey didn’t quite go to plan, and he was forced to retire due to injury and poor weather conditions. “2016 was very unfortunate,” Chris recalled. “Four weeks before the event, I lost my team mate. I had to find a new partner, who I found two weeks before the race. I tore my left achilles, my left rotator cuff, and my forearm, and I thought I could still do it! Then along came Storm Fiona. We managed to get to Hambleden, by which time I had run out of everything. 18 hours paddling in 40mph winds, with rain so it’s like waterboarding — you just collapse.” Though he was unable to finish the race, Chris still managed to raise £8,000 for Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Despite Chris’ previous bad luck, Chris and Paul have stayed injury free, and are feeling confident in the run up to this year’s race. This will be Paul’s first attempt at the famous canoe race, though he has ample experience in endurance challenges, having completed the 22 day Everest Base Camp trek. Both Paul and Chris are aware of the taxing demands that the race presents. “We’re being sensible about it,” Paul explained. “We’re not treating it as a first past the finishing post, we intend to get past the finishing post and raise a good deal for charity.”
Chris and Paul will race over four days, starting on Friday 30 March. They expect to pass through Henley around mid morning on Saturday. Each day will see them paddle for about six and a half hours each morning, concluding with a 5:30am start at Teddington Lock on Monday to conquer the final 17 mile stretch. They will burn around 600 calories in an hour, and have to lift their boat in and out of the water 77 times — so it helps to have state of the art kit! Their boat, manufactured by British company ‘The Darkness’, weighs 15kg, and will be donated to the Henley Canoe Club after the race. The Canoe Club, located at the registered charity The Eyot Centre on Wargrave Road, has been the base for the pair’s training.
The funds raised by Chris and Paul’s fantastic efforts will go towards two very worthy causes. Having friends with MS, and experienced its effects first hand, they are passionate about helping MS UK. Alzheimer’s Research UK also holds a special meaning to them, after having lost their fathers to dementia. “With dementia, you lose your loved ones twice. You lose them when they don’t recognise you anymore, but then you lose them again when they die,” Chris stated. “It’s about raising awareness, not about getting old, but about dementia and Alzheimer’s as an illness. If we can raise people’s awareness, research is what will eventually allow you to survive something like dementia.”
Lindsay Gray, Regional Fundraising Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK, expressed her gratitude to the determined duo. “We would like to thank Chris and Paul for taking on this amazing challenge to raise funds for Alzheimer’s Research UK,” she said. “Our vision is a world that is free from the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia. Our aim is to find the first life-changing treatment for dementia by 2025. That can only be achieved through research.”
Chris and Paul would like to express their thanks to the many local businesses who have supported them: sponsors The Frog at Skirmett, Pachangas, Machins butchers, The Wine Rack, Starbucks, Chocolate Cafe, Patisserie Franco-Belge, The Three Tuns, The Anchor, The Angel on the Bridge, Cannelle Beauty and Cafe Rouge. Chris also added, “If the people of Henley could come out on Saturday 31st March, we should be coming through here at about mid morning on our way to Marlow. We will be wearing a tracking device — if you go to our website you can track us — and then just cheer us as we come through!”