Fundraiser completes awe-inspiring challenge in friend’s memory

On the second anniversary of his friend’s death from breast cancer, Paul Smith OBE completed his challenge to solo row the English Channel in her memory. This was an amazing fundraising effort in itself, but Paul is wheelchair-bound and had never rowed before he started training for the challenge.

Paul, 60, a Royal Navy veteran, suffered life-long injuries following a car accident in 1991, which was followed by a 12-year period of ‘Locked In’ syndrome. Due to the injuries to his chest, spine, hips and shoulders, Paul is in constant pain and suffers from daily migraine pressure on his brain. In 2014, Paul was involved in a deliberate hit and run which further aggravated his injuries as well as his struggle with PTSD and depression.

But, despite his disabilities, Paul has dedicated his life to fundraising and refuses to let his disabilities define him.

Fundraiser completes awe-inspiring challenge in friend’s memory
Challenge the Channel leaving Dover. Photograph credit: Karen Horne

Paul said:

“I’ve completed numerous challenges on-land, so taking to the water was a natural step. I never thought rowing the Channel would be an option, but thanks to the support of a great team, we did it, despite the difficulties faced on the day.”

Last weekend’s 25-mile Channel crossing started well, with Paul and his team making it across to the French border in just 2.5 hours. However, the weather had another agenda for the return journey, and with the tide pushing south-west, it was impossible to make it to the finish line at Dover. In order to complete the challenge, the decision had to be made to alter the route and finish at Folkestone instead.

Paul added:

“Three miles from home things took a turn for the worst. The wind was going against the tide and every stroke was agony. My pain-threshold had reached its limit. I was coached through every stroke and with a picture of Marjorie in front of me, we made it to the finish line. Despite the extreme pain, I was determined to do it for her. I finished it for Marjorie.”

Paul finished the challenge in five hours, 47 minutes.

Paul’s challenge to row the Channel was in aid of national support charity, Breast Cancer Haven which provides free, one-to-one, emotional support and supportive therapies for people affected by breast cancer. During her fight with breast cancer, Paul’s friend Marjorie Anne continued to support others who faced the same fight.

Paul wants to raise as much money as he can for this challenge so more people like Marjorie can receive the support they so desperately need. To support Paul, please click here.

“Marjorie wanted other breast cancer sufferers to benefit from the same treatment she received at Breast Cancer Haven. Sadly, she lost her battle with the disease before completing her fundraising target. After seeing her passion and dedication for the charity, I wanted to complete a challenge which would fulfil her ambition” said Paul.

Sally Hillyear, Fundraising Manager at Breast Cancer Haven, Wessex, said:

“We are in awe of Paul’s strength and determination. His motivation to help people who have received a breast cancer diagnosis is so inspiring. We are very grateful for his support and Marjorie would have been so proud of what he has achieved on her behalf.”