Belfast Telegraph

Woman limbers up for charity paddle

An intrepid sportswoman is limbering up for an epic paddle around Ireland.

Elaine Alexander hopes to become the first woman from Northern Ireland to complete the exhausting 1,000-mile circuit in a kayak.

Setting off from Whitehead on the shores of Belfast Lough she will turn right when she hits the Irish Sea and two months later hopes to return to the same spot.

The 38-year-old, from Lisnaskea, is undertaking the challenge in a bid to raise money for the Share centre in Co Fermanagh. She works as an instructor at the charity organisation which has been offering outdoor pursuits to disabled and able-bodied children and adults for the last 30 years.

"Last year I paddled around Ulster which took 26 days and prepared me for some of what to expect for this expedition," she said. "I am out training at least three times a week paddling short distances of about 10 miles with longer coastal trips at the weekend. I also spend three nights a week working on maps, planning the route, rest areas and calculating tides."

Ms Alexander, who has represented Northern Ireland at the Surf Kayak World Championships in Costa Rica and France, hopes to raise £10,000 to help pay for a fully accessible bus for disabled groups to travel to and make use of the Share centre.

Before departing on May 3, she will officially open the newly refurbished boathouse at the County Antrim Yacht Club in Whitehead.

She intends to keep supporters in touch with her adventure through regular posts, updates and uploads on social networking sites Facebook, Twitter and Youtube and is fundraising through Just Giving with blogs and a map on her website which will pinpoint her location.

"I have a good team behind me which means that I can concentrate on the trip and ensuring I have all the right equipment and have taken the correct precautions to ensure as safe a journey as possible," she said. "The trip would not be possible without help from my sponsors who have supplied me with a boat, safety equipment, food rations and promotional items for the journey."

Her trip is supported by Valley Sea Kayaks, Desperate Measures, North South Marine, River Lake Sea, Yak, Brookbanks Canoes and Kayaks, Signal Signs, Asda Enniskillen, Canoe Association for Northern Ireland and Blackthorn Design.

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