Intrepid rowers raise thousands in race grueller

CANOE KINGS -- Andy and Kurt pictured during their intensive training on the River Trent -- DISPIC NHUD10-2640-4.
CANOE KINGS -- Andy and Kurt pictured during their intensive training on the River Trent -- DISPIC NHUD10-2640-4.

AN INTREPID father-and-son team from Bulwell have completed a gruelling year of canoe races totalling 900 miles — and raised more than £11,000 to help seriously ill children meet Santa Claus.

Andy (50) and Kurt Toms (23), who ironically live on Rowe Gardens, completed a series of challenges, including the Yukon River Quest in Canada, which is the world’s longest canoe and kayak competition at 460 miles.

But the stamina-sapping effort has proved worthwhile because a total of £11,233 has been raised for the charity When You Wish Upon A Star.

The money paid for 16 youngsters with terminal and life-limiting illnesses to fly out to Lapland to meet the man in red face to face ahead of Christmas.

Kurt said that he and his dad had made the challenge deliberately tough to encourage supporters to donate more money.

“It only hits home that you have done something special when you speak to people,” added the apprentice plumber.

“A lot of people said that they didn’t think we were going to do it all. But then when we did, they just gave us that little bit more.”

Andy and Kurt started training for their challenge in November last year as part of 2,000 miles worth of on-river preparation.

When the real action started, they first took on the Waterside Series — a set of four races spanning 88 miles on the Kennet and Avon Canal, which links Newbury in Berkshire and Bath in Somerset.

Then it was on to the 125-mile non-stop Devizes-to-Westminster contest, which is considered to be one of the most difficult river races in Britain. The duo completed the challenge in 24 hours and 23 minutes.

Next, Andy and Kurt crafted a home-made raft using scaffolding and oil drums for the 70-mile Char River Race down the Wye Valley on the border between England and Wales.

It was then out to Canada for the Yukon Quest, which took the duo 50 hours and 38 minutes to complete — a time fast enough to crown them winners in the two-man category.

Print engineer Andy said the charity quest was about giving something back to ill youngsters who would cherish the memory of meeting Santa.

“You can’t buy what we have had this year,” he added. “It has created memories we will never forget.

“I have been fortunate and so has my family. But some of these sick children just don’t get the chance to make these sorts of memories.”