When it comes to challenges Mark Little knows a thing or two about finding his limits.
The landlord of The Dolphin in Rock a Nore spent years in the army and more recently he’s raised money for local charities including St Michael’s Hospice by taking on a number of challenges including bungee jumps.
But this year Mark is taking on a challenge like no other. As part of a team of four he’ll be paddling his way across the English Channel – the busiest waterway in the world – in one of two two-man kayaks, to raise money for four-year-old Elsie Rose Nugent who suffers from Type 1 Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).
The pair of Kayaks, along with a safety boat, will set out on the trip from Dungeness in Kent heading for Boulogne on the coast of France. The trip is scheduled to take place sometime during the week beginning August 20 depending on tides and weather conditions.
Mark explained that the idea for the paddle across the channel came about from a conversation in the pub’s bar one night where regulars were throwing around some ideas for a fund raising challenge – that was last summer. Having never been in a kayak before Mark started training straight away and enlisted the help of expert Cliff Meaden, the man who will captain the safety boat when the trip is underway.
It will take about seven hours to complete the 26 mile trip and as part of his training Mark is using the stretch of water between Hastings pier and Eastbourne pier as a practise ground. The distance between the two piers is around 28 miles, so slightly more than he will have to complete on the big day. Mark says one of the biggest physical challenges is sitting properly in the kayak for such a long period of time
At full speed Mark’s kayak will be travelling at between three and four knots and he’s hoping that they will be able to choose a time slot for the journey that will see tides and winds help them along.
Having been a soldier Mark is used to keeping himself fit and in addition to having learned how to paddle a kayak, he’s putting some time in at the gym to make sure his stamina is where it should be.
He explains that the trip will be very demanding on his upper body and says that learning the technique of paddling is essential.
Cliff Meaden has shown him proper technique which he says requires a string core as a great deal of the necessary motion comes from twisting the torso to drive the paddles through the water. But the challenge is as much a mental one as it is a physical one according to Mark and he’ll be relying on his army training to dig deep into his reserves of mental strength to make sure he, and the rest of the team, complete the journey.
Cliff’s knowledge is vital to the success of the trip. The English Channel is one of the busiest waterways in the world and when Mark reaches the main shipping lane he’ll have to get permission to cross. Once in Boulogne the team will put their kayaks on a ferry and head back to the UK.
Full details of the four man team completing the trip will be announced nearer the time.
Mark says his decision to donate the money he raises to Elsie-Rose came about after the little girl’s aunt was in the pub selling raffle tickets for just one of the many fund raisers the family need to carry out each year to provide Elsie-Rose with the equipment she needs to cope with her condition. Elsie-Rose’s grandfather is a local fisherman and also a regular in The Dolphin.
Mark says: “Elsie-Rose has already beaten the odds. Because of the high risk of serious respiratory problems most children with Type 1 SMA do not survive to be a year old – Elsie-Rose is already four!”
Type 1 SMA causes severe muscle weakness that can result in problems moving, breathing and swallowing.
A foundation has been created in Elsie-Rose’s name to provide help and financial assistance for families with children who are sick, disabled or terminally ill.
There will be charity pots and sponsor forms in The Dolphin and anyone who wants to donate online can go to a just giving page, to donate follow this link…