Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Steve Backshall’s magnificent achievement: completing the DW race and raising £45,000 for WLT

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7 April, 2015 - 17:05 -- World Land Trust
Steve Backshall DW
Approaching Pewsey Wharf.

It was a long, hard race and there were dramatic setbacks along the way but Steve Backshall and George Barnicoat stayed focused to the end.

Sponsor Steve Backshall »

On Easter Sunday morning the pair crossed the Westminster finish line of the longest kayak race in the world, after setting out from Devizes more than 23 hours earlier.

Steve and George completed the 125 mile non stop kayak race from Wiltshire to Westminster in 23 hours and 17 minutes despite three rudder cable breakages.

In a race where many of the teams are from the armed forces, and in spite of delays of two or three hours caused by technical problems, Steve and George finished 42nd out of the 118 teams that completed the race. (This is the sort of challenge that tests the toughest: more than 40 teams failed to finish.)

Thanks to this extraordinary feat, Steve has raised more than £45,000 for World Land Trust (WLT). Of this total, £22,500 is match funding (£15,000 from a WLT Council member and £7,500 from WLT corporate supporter Maidenhead Aquatics); £2,000 is a donation from luxury tree house designer Blue Forest.

Hundreds of other people have made donations to sponsor Steve, among them Olympic rowing champion Helen Glover, who with Heather Stanning won Team GB’s first gold medal of the London 2012 Games.

Staying the course

The first rudder cable snapped near Pewsey, the race’s first checkpoint. The second breakage happened “in the middle of nowhere” Steve told WLT, so the pair had to carry their kayak two to three miles to reach their support team for repairs. The third time the rudder cable broke, the kayak underwent a total overhaul in Newbury.


Left to right: Peter Foster (WLT Volunteer), Christina Ballinger (WLT Senior Editor), Steve Backshall, George Barnicoat, Julia Warnes (WLT Donations Assistant), Dan Bradbury (WLT Head of Digital Communications). © WLT.

After that there were no more technical failures, just hard paddling through the cold night and the small hours of the morning to the finish line opposite Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

Soon after completing the race Steve joined WLT staff who had gathered by Westminster Bridge to cheer him over the finish line. “Your support means so much to me,” he said, “and it was so good to see WLT supporters at Pewsey after the first rudder breakage.”

Although the race is over, Steve very much hopes that it will be possible to raise a total of £50,000 to protect threatened rainforest in Colombia.

His fundraising page is still open for donations and his total will be boosted by an eBay auction of 17 T-shirts, worn and personally signed by Steve. The auction closes on Sunday 12 April at 11am.

Sponsor Steve Backshall »


Submitted by Dominic Belfield on

A sterling effort and very well done to Steve and George. There's a little golden frog out there, a frog barely more than a thumbnail in size, which has brewed up all by itself a cocktail of wildly lethal chemicals and which is nonetheless grateful for your achievement on the Thames.

And - the man (Steve) was up and ready to face Libby on Radio 4's Midweek chat programme.... Now THAT'S a trooper for you! We can, we must salute you.

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