The 23rd of April is Easter Saturday. No thoughts of the Easter Bunny or chocolate fests for James Tweed. He’ll be paddling for 125 miles in the Devizes Westminister International Canoe Race. This is no ordinary, fun race but a non-stop marathon. And Mr Tweed, who teams up with fellow Briton Oliver Wigdahl, is not your ordinary water sportsman. He’s a maritime professional, top honcho at a company called Coracle Online. He and Mr Wigdahl aim to raise money for the The Mission to Seafarers and Seafarers UK to aid mariners in the face of the escalating menace of piracy.

Now on its 60th year, the Devizes-Winster event has been described as the Mount Everest of canoe races. It takes 30 hours or more to complete the three sections of the route: the 200-year-old Kennet and Avon Canal (54 miles), River Thames at Reading (53 miles) and finally from from Teddington River Thames (Tidal section) to Wesminster (18 miles). All told, a distance of 125 miles with 77 portages to get round (i.e., get out of the boat and carry it over the lock).

James Tweed (front of kayak) hopes to highlight the plight of seafarers

The grueling 125-mile course is a test of stamina and courage

Mr Tweed and his partner will be using a 6.5m long, 55cm wide kayak called a Condor that weighs 14 kilos. It won’t be a picnic. Says UK’s The Telegraph: “It is a race so punishing and physically tough that entrants can experience sleep-deprived hallucinations, exhaustion and hypothermia, not to mention the aches, pains, cramps and sores that come from sitting in a confined wet space for more than 24 hours.” So why go through the ordeal?

Explains Mr Tweed: “Piracy is a significant problem for the world, but whilst many people are worried about the economic impact that these criminals are causing, we want to remember the human element. Seafarers being held captive for months, being tortured and even killed. We want to raise awareness and money to support them. The IMO have declared World Maritime Day 2011 as ‘Piracy – Orchestrating the Response’ and this challenge aims to support the UN initiative in a practical way.”

The whole idea of it, we might add, is also more creative than the Internet-based SOS campaign launched by BIMCO and its Round Table partners. Imagine UK Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Barack Obama all competing in a kayak race. Wouldn’t that dramatise the urgency of the Somali piracy issue? But we imagine too much. ~Barista Uno

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