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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 September, 2003, 10:23 GMT 11:23 UK
Kitesurfer launches solo Channel attempt
By Malcolm Prior
BBC News Online, Poole

Kirsty Jones
Ms Jones will be on the water for four hours
It is a journey that has been undertaken by a host of would-be record-breakers, ranging from elderly swimmers to a daredevil skydiver and even a blind microlight pilot.

Now it is a kitesurfer's turn to attempt to cross the English Channel.

Former British women's kitesurfing champion Kirsty Jones hopes to become the first woman to achieve the solo feat.

On Saturday - weather permitting - she will set off from Cherbourg, France, to travel 75 miles (120.7 kilometres) across one of the world's busiest shipping channels to Poole in Dorset.

While a Channel crossing has been successfully completed before - in 1999, two male kitesurfers undertook the Dover-Calais journey - Ms Jones will be travelling one of the furthest distances ever attempted by a kitesurfer.

Kirsty Jones
Ms Jones is able to change kites while out on the water
Ms Jones, from Pembrokeshire, Wales, said: "My friends and family think I'm mad.

"But I do a lot of competitions and sometimes it gets a bit much when you are always thinking about how to win.

"I wanted to do something different, to do something to help people and find a new challenge."

The attempt will involve Ms Jones, whose routine training for the competition circuit is all the preparation she has done, being on the water for an estimated four hours and reaching speeds of 24 knots.

We will see a lot of shipping but I intend to stay well away from it
Kirsty Jones
At the same time, she will have to avoid the dangers of passing ferries and tankers while finding the best winds to take her across.

The 25-year-old will be accompanied by a fully-equipped safety boat which will plot her route.

In case she does lose contact with the back-up team, Ms Jones will also be carrying a tracking beacon.

She told BBC News Online: "The person navigating the boat will know the routes of all the ferries so we will not be in any shipping lanes.

Irish Sea crossing

"We will see a lot of shipping but I intend to stay well away from it.

"As long as the rescue boat is there I will be fine. Doing it by oneself would not be advisable.

"You do feel very small out there, like a pea."

While efforts are made to calculate wind speeds and directions, the winner of the 2001 British women's kitesurfing championship is prepared for ill winds.

Charity fundraising

She said: "You can get blown by the wind if you are using a kite that is too big because you will not be able to hold it.

"I have to decide what size kite to use beforehand, although we have been practising changing kites when I'm actually on the water.

"If needs be I can change it."

Ms Jones is no stranger to such challenges.

In 2002, she kitesurfed across the Irish Sea in six hours, raising thousands of pounds for charity in the process.

This time she hopes to raise 4,000 for the Ellen MacArthur Trust.

The attempt is being held to tie in with the Animal Windfest event in Poole, which begins on Thursday.



LINKS TO MORE HAMPSHIRE/DORSET STORIES


 

SEE ALSO:
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16 Aug 03  |  Europe
Man injured by surf kite
28 Jun 03  |  Cornwall
Kitesurfers fear UK's first ban
17 Jun 03  |  Hampshire/Dorset
Wind puts kite-surfer in spin
30 Apr 03  |  Hampshire/Dorset
Partial ban for power kiters
24 Apr 03  |  North West Wales
Inquest into stunt kite death
21 May 03  |  Suffolk


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