A team of sailors from HMS Kent are swapping their state-of-the-art frigate for canoes to take on a four-day challenge to raise awareness of and funds for Demelza Hospice Care for Children. Crew of the Portsmouth-based warship, who have recently been practising their submarine hunting skills off Iceland, plan to paddle 145 miles on the waterways between Bristol and north London, raising money for Demelza along the way.

The ship has been associated with the charity throughout her 20-year career and the crew are passionate in their efforts to raise funds, even more so in the light of the Coronavirus pandemic. Demelza has seen a significant drop in income as a result of the cancellation or postponement of all major events, challenges and face-to-face fundraising, as well as the closure of all its 27 shops.

This latest money-spinner is the brainchild of Leading Hand Cyndi Dodd, Leading Physical Trainer Holly Cole and Sub-Lieutenant Joshua Ward. They’ll be joined by six shipmates on the challenge, which will see them take on the entire length of the Kennet and Avon Canal, beginning in Bristol on 7 August, and ending 87 miles later where it meets the Thames in Reading.

From there they will continue 31 miles downstream until they reach Windsor, then move briefly on foot before resuming kayaking on the Grand Union Canal through Slough, Paddington and finally the Regent’s Canal at Camden Lock.

LPT Cole and Sub Lt Ward are undertaking the Paddle Sports Leader Course so they can safely take the team down the waterways, while the canoeists have been put through their paces in strength and endurance training during the frigate’s spring-summer deployments to the Arctic, Atlantic and Baltic.

Leading Hand Cyndi Dodd said “This is a fantastic opportunity to raise money and awareness for Demelza whilst pushing ourselves to the limit as this is not going to be easy. We are looking forward to hopefully meeting some of Demelza when we reach our final destination. You can see how we are getting on by visiting our social media pages.”

Hayley Richardson, Deputy Director of Fundraising and Marketing at Demelza said “A huge thank you to the team at HMS Kent for taking on this challenge to raise funds for Demelza.  As a charity, we’re almost entirely dependent on the generosity of our supporters to provide the funds that keep our services going and our income has taken a significant hit as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.  HMS Kent have generously supported Demelza over many years now and their continued support will make a difference to the children and families who access our services now and in the future”.

To donate to the challenge, go to: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/hmskentops and follow their progress via the ship’s twitter feed @HMS_Kent