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Audacious bid to kayak from Scotland to Norway

Written by Fiona July 19 2011

Three courageous kayakers are three days into an audacious attempt to make the first kayak crossing of the North Sea from Shetland to Norway.

Patrick Winterton, Mick Berwick and Olly Hicks set off on July 16 from Lunna Voe and hope to complete the remarkable paddling adventure of 400km to Bergen in four or five days.

Their Kayaks on Shetland Bus journey will celebrate the seafaring achievements of all those involved in the Shetland Bus operation during World War Two. The trio also aim to raise vital fund for the Make a Wish Foundation and the RNLI.

The Challenge

Taking on the North Sea is a serious undertaking in most boats. In single sea kayaks it is a daunting prospect. Travelling at an average of  less than 2.5 knotts means that the three paddlers will take at least 84 hours to complete the journey.

The conditions will be tough – and sleepless. Squeezed into damp cockpits with no escape from the elements and no opportunity for good rest this is as much a test of mental strength as it is physical.

The North Sea is notoriously rough with a constant barrage of steep breaking waves and water that is rarely warmer than 10 degrees. Staying upright will be hard enough but the major problems are the cold, injury, sea sickness and shipping.

One of their biggest concerns is ensuring that they stay together during the long hours of darkness.

The odds of success are small and will depend to a large extent on the team’s ability to remain motivated and positive.

The Story

There are many cultural links between Shetland and Norway that find their roots in Viking times.  One story that is relatively fresh in the minds of both Shetlanders and Norwegians is that of the “Shetland Bus”.

After the German occupation of Norway in WW2  a small, essentially non-military, operation was set up between Shetland and the West Coast of Norway to ferry agents, saboteurs and arms  into Norway and to aid refugees in their escape.  Norwegian fishing boats and fishermen were used to make repeated crossings of the notoriously inhospitable North Sea, with a mix of success and tragedy.

Their actions were crucial in forcing Germany to base a quarter of a million troops in Norway but the cost of this success was high with many boats sunk and with the loss of the lives of 44 of the Shetland Bus Crews.

Despite this, there was never a lack of willingness to set out on a mission.  Of all the dangers they faced they knew that the wild conditions of the North Sea were by far the greatest threat to their survival.

The Team

Patrick Winterton is a sports broadcaster from Stirling. He was also a Winter Olympian of 1988 and part of the two-man team the made the first crossing between  Scotland and the Faroe Islands.

Mick Berwick, of Sutton Coldfield, is a former national slalom paddler and the other half of the team that made the crossing to the Faroe Islands.  At 55 Mick is the veteran in the team but his paddling strength and stamina are well proven.

Olly Hicks, of London, is the youngest man to have rowed the Atlantic solo and the first man to row solo west to east.  His big ambition is to make the first circumnavigation of Antarctica in a rowing boat so this trip is little more than a warm up.

It’s possible to track the progress of the kayakers

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