Leamington man will test body and mind in 125-mile canoe race to raise money for charity set up by dying friend

James Browne (front) and Alex Broadley (back) in training.
James Browne (front) and Alex Broadley (back) in training.

Self confessed ‘endurance junkie’ James Browne is hoping to succeed where a former Olympian failed by finishing a gruelling 24-hour canoe race along the River Thames tomorrow (Saturday).

James, 34 and from Leamington, and his close friend Alex Broadley, 37, are taking part in The Devizes to Westminster (DW) International 125-mile Canoe Race which starts on the Kennet and Avon Canal at 9.30am with the pair hoping to reach Westminster at about the same time the next day.

James Browne (right) ad Alex Broadley (left)

James Browne (right) ad Alex Broadley (left)

The race has a ‘drop-out rate’ of about 30 per cent and, to emphasise how tough it is, five-time Olympic Gold Medallist Sir Steve Redgrave was not able to complete it when he took part in 2012.

James said: “It is a massive race and a real mental challenge.

“Paddling along the Thames at 3am will be very interesting.”

As part of the challenge, James and Alex are raising money for The Robert Sinclair Davidson Foundation.

The charity was set up by James’ friend from university Rob Davidson, 34 and a father of one, who died of motor neurone disease last Christmas.

It offers financial support to young couples and families who have been affected by life threatening and terminal illness.

James has said: “I saw first-hand what real courage looks like and Rob’s good humour and spirit will serve as a lasting example of how to deal with adversity in life with dignity and honour.

“My last conversation with Rob involved me telling him that I was going to attempt the DW for his new foundation.”

James has completed two iron man triathlon’s, including the Celtman in Scotland last year, and he and Alex have been training for the DW with Leamington Canoe Club for the past six months.

During this time the pair, who were complete novices at canoeing at first, have raced against Olympic medallists Jon Schofield and Liam Heath and have got to grips with the technique required to paddle 125 miles without becoming too tired.

They also had to find the right boat for the race which would have the right balance and speed.

Putting out an appeal on the DW Facebook group, the pair were delighted when Bob Mccall, a veteran of the race, said he’d let them borrow his Elio Cobra K2 which they believe will suit them perfectly.

James said: “Bob’s a great guy who has not only lent us his pride and joy but has also taken the time to share many years of experience.”


**** The Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race starts in Devizes, Wiltshire, finishing just downstream of Westminster Bridge in central London.

The race has been held annually over the Easter Weekend since 1948.

It is 125 miles long and has 77 portages - the first 52 miles are along the Kennet and Avon Canal to Reading, the next 55 miles are on the River Thames to Teddington and the final 17-mile section is on the tidal portion of the Thames.

The race is a severe test of skill, physical and mental stamina and planning. ****