‘I kayaked around UK in the fastest time ever’

epic trip : John WIllacy, from Garstang, paddling around the UK
epic trip : John WIllacy, from Garstang, paddling around the UK
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After 2,500 gruelling miles paddled in a kayak John Willacy is somehow still smiling.

But the 45-year-old from Garstang has every reason to be pleased, after knocking a massive eight days off the fastest recorded time for paddling around the mainland UK.

John, who is a former Great Britain kayak team competitor and coach, battled through lethal tides and rough seas and horrendous weather to complete the mammoth challenge in just 72 days.

He said: “I suppose I had been preparing all my life as a paddler, you keep moving onto the next big thing.

“And for a sea canoeist paddling around the UK is the biggest thing. The record was definitely the goal, it keeps you getting out of bed, otherwise it would be easy to stay in bed.”

John, who works a designer for Rockpool Kayaks, designed the kayak he used for the challenge, and carried everything he needed to be self-sufficient, including a tent and cooking equipment.

He said: “I paddled every day alone. The only support I had was my girlfriend Pascale who came along to meet me for two weeks but apart from them I was alone.

“Some people just want to be self-sufficient and that was me really. I used phone and email to keep in touch and carried all my camping gear.

“The majority of the time I pitched up at a campsite but sometimes it was just at the side of the water, but once a week I went for a bed and breakfast, for a bit of luxury.”

John set off from Anglesey and headed out to the Isle of Man before continuing to Ireland and around to Scotland on his clockwise tour.

But the most challenging part of the epic journey came on the east coast of England.

He said: “There were lots of lows and they were predominantly around the weather.

“The east was very bad because there was lots of erosion and mud cliffs so landing was impossible for really long stretches and that was quite intimidating.

“The best part was the people I met, there are lots of really nice people who came over for a chat.”

John now lives in Anglesey after serving in the RAF and splits his time between working as a canoe designer, taking part in canoeing challenges and coaching the Welsh canoe slalom team.

While he has now immediate plans for another big challenge, he is hoping to paddle from his home in Anglesey all the way to Garstang, to visit his family.