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DIS student kayaks 1500km in aid of Help for Heroes

December 17, 2010

Ashley arriving in Bilbao

Ashley Jeyes, a mature Information Management and Computing (IMC) student, completed an epic solo, unsupported sea kayak expedition from Guernsey in the Channel Islands, to Bilbao in Spain to raise money for the Help for Heroes charity.

He first thought of the idea after making a new year’s resolution. “I wanted to be more hardcore and proactive because I felt that I was a bit soft. Despite being in the Army and at University, I wanted to present a bigger challenge to myself and do something a bit more extreme”. He went on to comment: “I also wanted to raise some money for the Help for Heroes charity as it is a charity I feel very strongly about.”

Ashley’s initial plan was to begin form Portland and kayak to the Channel Islands before making his way to Bilbao via the French coast. However the route to the Channel Islands was cancelled due to heavy fog, which forced him to begin his trip from Guernsey in the Channel Islands. The journey stretched, in total, over 1500km and took Ashley 40 days to complete.

The journey begun, according to Ashley, with high levels of confidence and optimism, as he set out from Guernsey with his eyes firmly set on reaching Bilbao within the following eight weeks. “The first day was brilliant. I had a great paddle and I thought this is it, this is me for the next two months.” However, Ashley soon came to terms with the reality of the journey after breaking his finger the next day. “Psychologically it got more difficult as I went along and by day three and four, the enormity of what I was undertaking suddenly overcame me and I was thinking to myself, what have I done?”

Equipment provided by sponsors

Ashley expressed his gratitude to his sponsors for helping him to complete the journey. However he admits initially feeling reluctant to have any sponsors for the journey. “At first I didn’t want to become sponsored because of the added pressure that comes with it. However I soon realised that I couldn’t afford to do what I wanted to do without any sponsors. I also believed that it was a good way to increase the profile of the journey and raise more money”. The sponsors provided: a slightly modified kayak to cope with the conditions at sea; a video camera that was mounted onto the kayak to record video diaries; and a satellite tracker to monitor his progress via a map on his website. Speaking about his sponsors, he also went on to say: “I tentatively approached them by exploiting contacts of people I knew. I couldn’t have done it without them not necessarily because of the equipment paid for by them, but because of the positive psychological effect this had on me, knowing that a large number of people believed I could do it and were 100% behind me.”

A tired Ashley alongside his relieved parents

As expected, there were several challenges faced during the completion of the journey. During the initial planning stage Ashley had to juggle coursework and exam revision with developing his website, contacting the sponsors and planning the route. He was also unable to use some vital equipment such as his mobile and satellite phone as the batteries had corroded. However his biggest challenge came when he injured his right arm and was unable to use it for the remaining 12km of the journey.

Ashley in Bilbao

Ashley managed to surpass his goal of raising £5,000 for the Help for Heroes charity which he was extremely pleased about. “I’m truly ecstatic, and overwhelmed by the generosity and kind support that the public have given.” When asked about his thoughts after successfully completing the journey he replied: “With journeys like this I think you have to go into them with some blind ignorance and the mindset that you can do it and that everything will be fine, because if I looked at all the possible things that could have gone wrong, I probably wouldn’t have done it. This is something I would definitely do again in the future.

For more information about Ashley’s journey, please visit http://seakayakchallenge.com/cms/

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