Canoeists set off in paddle marathon

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A GRUELLING 900-mile canoeing challenge by a Bulwell father-and-son duo to raise money for charity is under way and keeping its head above water.

Andy Toms (50) and son Kurt (22) who, in an amazing coincidence, live on ROWE Gardens, are taking on a series of races. They hope to collect a staggering total of £50,000 for When You Wish Upon A Star, which specialises in making dreams come true for seriously-ill children.

The sponsored paddle came about because Andy wanted a special way to mark his 50th birthday.

The toughest part of the challenge will be the world’s longest canoe-race — a distance of 460 miles — along the Yukon River in Canada in August.

But already the pair have been putting in the miles with four races in February and March in the Waterside Series. These totalled 88 miles and took place on the Kennet and Avon Canal, which links Newbury in Berkshire and Bath in Somerset.

Next they tackle the tough 125-mile Devizes-to-Westminster Canoe Marathon over the Easter weekend. This is one of the toughest canoe races in Britain.

It features 77 spots along the route where Andy and Kurt have to get out of the river and carry their vessel to the next section.

After that, it’s the Char River Race — a 70-mile raft-race down the Wye Valley in Herefordshire next month.

Then preparations are geared to the challenge in North America before the whole initiative returns to Nottingham where the intrepid duo will paddle the 168-mile length of the River Trent.

Andy and Kurt are confident they can complete their task and boost the charity.

“I pass the headquarters of When You Wish Upon A Star every day on my way to work,” said Andy. “I have a lot of terrific memories with my family that many people are not lucky enough to have.

“Some kids don’t get the opportunities they deserve, so it’s a great cause.”