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Irish Solo Circumnavigation by kayak begins

Posted on April 20, 2011 @ 4:17 PM in Canoeing

Elaine Shooter Alexander is shortly set to embark on the challenge to become the first woman from Northern Ireland to circumnavigate Ireland by kayak.

The challenge will involve a solo voyage of 1000 miles battling tides, headlands, cliffs, not to mention unpredictable weather. 

Elaine 'Shooter' Alexander

The motivation for the trip is not only the 1000 mile challenge but also to raise much needed funds for the registered charity – SHARE. In 2011 SHARE based in County Fermanagh will celebrate 30 years of providing outdoor activity programmes which promote the inclusion of disabled & non-disabled people in a wide range of arts, land and water based recreational programmes.

Elaine’s trip will begin at on Tuesday 3rd May from County Antrim Yacht Club in Whitehead on the shores of Belfast Lough.  Almost immediately her first challenge is to cross Belfast Lough’s busy shipping channel which includes the fast moving Stena HSS.  From there she will continue her clockwise route before returning to the same location in approximately two months time. 

Before departing Elaine will officially open the newly refurbished boathouse at County Antrim Yacht Club, which was originally built in c.1870 to house the local lifeboat and was an integral part of the Coastguard station.  The boathouse which is a listed building and a fine remnant of maritime history within the Whitehead Conservation Area has been extensively refurbished and will provide a storage facility for canoes and kayaks.   It will not only be used by local members but will act as a top class facility for visiting canoeists and kayakers using the soon to be launched East Coast Canoe Trail, a key highlight of this trail is the nearby Gobbins cliffs residence to a puffin colony.  The present Commodore of Commodore of County Antrim Yacht Club said "we are delighted Elaine has chosen CAYC for her starting point on what is a special day for us with the official opening of the refurbished boat house, Elaine stopped off with us on her last trip around Ulster and we are sure that she will be amazed at the transformation that has taken place since then. We look forward to welcoming Elaine back on the completion of her challenge and hopefully many other canoeist’s and kayakers in the future."

Elaine has been training and studying hard to ensure she is both mentally and physically prepared for the challenge that lies ahead, as she highlights:

“Last year I paddled around Ulster which took 26 days and prepared me for some of what to expect for this expedition. I am out training at least 3 times a week paddling short distances of about 10 miles with longer coastal trips at the weekend. I also spend 3 nights a week working on maps, planning the route, rest areas and calculating tides.”

A well-known personality in Irish canoeing circles with recognised pedigree, Elaine has successfully combined a career as an outdoor pursuits instructor at SHARE along with competing in local, national and international canoeing events.  This measure of competence is coupled with a competitive streak which reached its pinnacle in 2005 and 2007 when representing Northern Ireland at the Surf Kayak World Championships in Costa Rica and Mundaka respectively.

It was whilst taking disabled groups canoeing at SHARE that Elaine got her inspiration for this challenge and the target of fundraising £10,000. This money will be allocated towards a fully accessible bus which will ensure further disabled groups will be able to travel and enjoy an outdoor recreation experience on Lough Erne in the future.  Fundraising is of paramount importance to ensure this charity can continue to deliver its much needed work.

Elaine will keep in touch through regular posts, updates and uploads on social networking sites Facebook, Twitter and Youtube and is fundraising through Just Giving with regular blogs and a map on her website which will pinpoint her location on route. All links are available from her website

“I have a good team behind me which means that I can concentrate on the trip and ensuring I have all the right equipment and have taken the correct precautions to ensure as safe a journey as possible. The trip would not be possible without help from my sponsors who have supplied me with a boat, safety equipment food rations and promotional items for the journey. It is great to see nearly 800 followers on facebook and a lot of interaction on posts and tweets so far. I will blog when possible throughout the trip. I would like to a big say thank you to all those that have donated so far and encourage anyone who would like to support this worthy cause to gift-aid donations online through our justgiving page”

Elaine’s trip has been made possible with generous support from Valley Sea Kayaks, Desperate Measures, Lendal Paddles  North South Marine, River Lake Sea, Yak, Brookbanks Canoes and Kayaks, Signal Signs, Asda Enniskillen, Canoe Association for Northern Ireland and Blackthorn Design.


Chris Scott
Chris Scott

When not boring everyone about his little kids’ latest antics, Chris enjoys sailing and cycling, if only to offset his love of eating out and Marlborough Cabernet Sauvignon..

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