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Page last updated at 09:41 GMT, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 10:41 UK
Solo kayaker crosses Irish Sea
Dan Hatton, Duncan Ogilvie, Howard Leach and Jonathan Foxcroft ready for the off
Dan. Duncan, Howard and Jonathan ready for the off

A novice canoeist crossed the Irish Sea single-handed after his team-mates were forced to retire early from a charity challenge.

Dan Hatton set off from the Northern Ireland seaport of Donaghadee on Friday morning with three fellow intrepid tablers.

But the rough sea forced his pals to retire to the support vessel after just four miles.

Dan said: "It was the hardest thing I have ever done."

Challenge organiser Duncan Ogilvie, from Edenfield, said: "We had all wanted to finish the challenge together and although we were gutted when we had to retire it was a tremendous achievement for Dan to make it. We were all delighted he kept on going and we were shouting encouragement from the support boat as he was crossing.

'Really choppy'

"He arrived at Portpatrick, just south of Stranraer, after seven-and-a-half hours, which was a fantastic time. It was a lot rougher out there than we expected, which is why the three of us were told it was unsafe for us to continue, but Dan was braving the waves better than we were and the safety crew agreed he could continue."

Before January, garage owner Dan, IT consultant Duncan and the other two kayakers accountant Jonathan Foxcroft and scrap metal dealer Howard Leach had not set foot in a canoe. But they had months of intense training at a country park in Bury before trying out rougher water in Ullswater and taking to the sea at Barrow-in-Furness before tackling the 24-mile route.

Dan arrives at Portpatrick safe and sound
Dan arrives at Portpatrick safe and sound

Duncan said: "The temperature was fine but the sea was really choppy. We got in the kayaks in the harbour but when we got out to sea the waves were inconsistent and we had to take evasive action to avoid ending upside down in the water. The waves were crashing over the kayak and at times it was quite terrifying.

"I seriously thought I was going to end up in the sea and I lost all sensation in my legs, which is why I summoned the safety boat and reluctantly had to call it a day. It calmed down later, but the captain said it was not safe for us to return to the water.

A pint to celebrate

"Although there are reportedly basking sharks, we only saw a harmless seal - and we spotted the Belfast to Liverpool ferry from a safe distance.

"Dan was an absolute legend, he just kept on going. His wife Becky and his young children texted us from the shore saying they could see him and we relayed the message and he said that it kept him going and made him all the more determined to finish.

"He managed to get the canoe on to the shore and his wife and children ran to gave him a hug and a kiss."

The captain's daughter runs a pub in Portpatrick and she brought Dan a pint to celebrate his success.

Dan said: "There were a couple of times when I felt like giving up, but I kept thinking of my wife and children. At the end my arms were hurting that much I tried to forget I was paddling and just imagined I was riding my bike."

The team, all from Rossendale Round Table, hope to have raised £5,000 split between Positive Start, which is a local organisation working with young people, and the New Children's Hospital in Manchester.

Howard and Duncan are so frustrated at not staying the course, as soon as the weather improves next year they are planning to complete the challenge.

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