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Paddling in the wake of the Shetland Bus

From left to right: Olly Hicks, Patrick Winterton and Mick Berwick.

THREE British adventurers are to set off from Shetland in their kayaks in a bid to recreate the daring journeys of Norwegian resistance fighters during World War II.

Thousands of Norwegians were able to flee their German occupied homeland thanks to the brave men of the Shetland Bus, who also landed supplies and saboteurs into quiet fjords under the cover of darkness.

Now sportsmen Patrick Winterton, aged 49, from Stirling, Mick Berwick, 52, from Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham; and Olly Hicks, 30, from London, said they were so inspired by the actions of these heroic seafarers that they wanted to follow their route across the North Sea to mark the 70th anniversary of the Shetland Bus.

They also hope to raise more than £15,000 for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the Make a Wish Foundation.

Mr Winterton, a sports broadcaster and former member of the British winter Olympic team, said the trio felt well prepared for the 240 mile trip which starts from Lerwick on Saturday.

They plan first to row to Lunna House, in the north mainland of the isles, where the Shetland Bus was based between 1941 and 1943 before being moved to Scalloway.

Patrick Winterton: 'it has to be more than a physical challenge'.

After an overnight stay the three kayakers will cross to Out Skerries, Shetland’s most easterly island group, from where they will set off on their 84 hour journey once the weather permits.

All three have ample experience in such adventures and know only all too well that their attempt to reach the Norwegian coast without a support vessel might fail.

Mr Winterton said: “We are top of the game in this very small world and it is nice to test your limits.”

The journey is expected to take at least four days and three nights, with the team expecting to land in Bergen on 19 July.

Each team member has prepared a standard single sea kayak carrying enough supplies of food and water for seven days along with satellite phones, satellite trackers, GPS, EPIRB, and flares.

Throughout the crossing sat-phone contact will be made with base every six hours to pin point their position.

The team expects to get between two to four hours rest in each 24 hour period. The best way to stay warm at night is to paddle, but it is also the easiest way to get seasick.

Some of the conditions the kayakers might have to face.

Insulated cockpits, Blizzard Survival heat packs and Reed kayak tents will keep the paddlers warm while they sleep.

Mr Winterton said: “My philosophy is that there has to be more than a physical challenge. None of us has any relation with those involved in the Shetland Bus, but it is such a fantastic story of survival.

“We are so impressed by what these fishermen managed to do, surviving the North Sea in winter time and again while their vessels were shot to pieces.

“We are taking a little bit of inspiration from these guys. When you read stories like that you then believe in yourself, and you believe what you are trying to do is possible,” he said.

“We do this a safely as we can, it is not a foolhardy expedition, we know what we are doing and it will be gratifying to achieve it. However, there is absolutely no guarantee that we get there – about 60 per cent of what we do succeeds, but 40 per cent of our expeditions fail.”

Their journey can be followed at http://www.kayaksonshetlandbus.com/ from where there is a link to donate.