Sunday 17 December 2017

Duo to row, row, row their boat 'stupidly far' for two good causes

Tiarnán Byrne and Alan Barrett, who will take on the ‘Devises to Westminister’ challenge in the UK
Tiarnán Byrne and Alan Barrett, who will take on the ‘Devises to Westminister’ challenge in the UK

John Manning

TWO kayakers who learned their skills at Malahide Sea Scouts are about to paddle "stupidly far" to raise cash to give the scout den a badly needed facelift.

The brave duo, Alan Barrett and Tiarnán Byrne, are taking on a mammoth challenge, rowing 125km of gruelling waterways across the UK from Wiltshere to Westminster Bridge.

What makes it all worthwhile is the lads are donating every cent they raise to charity. The funds will be split between Diabetes Ireland and Malahide Sea Scouts, to help fund repairs and redevelopment of its current facilities.

The two lads have been paddling their canoe (or more properly, their kayak) together for 12 years, after learning the basics of kayaking through the sea scouts.

The so-called 'Devises to Westminster' race is legendary in the kayaking world and has the reputation as the world's toughest kayak race.

The pair were inspired by two of their former sea scout leaders, Andy O'Connell and Paul Tyrrell, who completed the same race a decade previously.

The race is 125 miles long and takes place on the canals west of Devises, in Wiltshire England and later along the River Thames, finishing at Westminster bridge in London.

Teams of two paddle K2 (Tandem) kayaks non-stop for the duration of the race which usually takes between 20-26 hours to complete.

It involves around 90,000 paddle strokes and also requires the crews to navigate (usually by walking around or 'portaging') 70 locks along the canal.

Each team requires a support crew to provide food, drink and clean clothes – as well as morale support – throughout the race, which takes place during the Easter bank holiday weekend on April 18.

Blogging about their love of Malahide Sea Scouts, Tiarnán said: 'Both myself and Alan have been members of this remarkable youth organisation since childhood.

'It was volunteer leaders of Malahide Sea Scouts who first introduced us to kayaking as well as the outdoors generally.

'Today we both volunteer as leaders ourselves, and the organisation has grown to provide unique experiences and lessons in life to over 600 youth members.

'We have chosen Malahide Sea Scouts specifically because our current den, which was completed in 1984 and despite serving us very well for almost 30 years, is now badly in need of repair and renovation.

'It has no wheelchair access, poor infrastructure, a leaking roof and is an eyesore on the shore of Malahide Estuary.

'The funds raised here will go towards building an extension and making the necessary improvements.'

Among the upgrades planned are a new roof; a new environmentally sound building, as well as a safer one; significantly more storage space and meeting rooms; rooms to run skills training programmes; a child friendly and disability proofed building with a lift; more facilities for volunteers; and a youth room.

The boys also have a particular reason in choosing Diabetes Ireland to benefit from their efforts.

Tiarnán said: 'We are racing as part of 'Team Diabetes' and the funds we raise for this charity will go towards to providing support, education and motivation to all people affected by diabetes, as well as toward funding research into a cure for diabetes.

'Alan is a type 1 diabetic and anyone who knows him will be well aware that he operates at about 150 per cent the activity level of pretty much everyone else.

'Few people, therefore, know more than Alan about the importance of having the right information and support available to allow you to not only to survive and be healthy but to live life to the full and achieve your goals.

'This is the kind of practical support and advice Diabetes Ireland is providing on the ground for people with diabetes in Ireland.'

You will find the lads' page by searching for 'Alan & Tiarnán Paddle Stupidly Far For Charity' or you can link to it and keep up with their efforts on Tiarnán's blog at

Fingal Independent

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