Richard Branson welcomes intrepid kayak team to paradise island

Shrewsbury | News | Published:

Their daring bid to cross 800-miles of the Caribbean in kayaks has won them the admiration of Sir Richard Branson – and a well-earned rest on his paradise island of Necker.

Front from left, Tom McAlpine and Michael Houston. Back from left, Woody Dewar and Edmund Magnus.

Michael Houston, Edmund Magnus and Tom McAlpine, who all went to Shrewsbury School, plus Woody Dewar, their friend from Oxfordshire, are part-way through a nine-week challenge to paddle from Grenada to Puerto Rico in tandem sea kayaks.

The intrepid team braved hurricanes and battled huge waves during their adventure to raise £40,000 for charity.

They have managed to make it as far as Necker Island, where Sir Richard met the team, who are all in their early 20s.

The Virgin boss has even written on his blog to express his admiration for the boys' efforts.

"I love people who set out on breath-taking adventures and take on daring challenges. One that has captured my imagination is The KX Kayakers Challenge, a nine-week, 800-mile long expedition across the Caribbean from Grenada to Puerto Rico – in tandem sea kayaks," he said.

"They are the youngest and fastest people who have ever kayaked across the Caribbean and could end up going further than anyone before them.

"One of them has continued despite passing out in the kayak with unbelievable sea-sickness and they are persevering in horrendous conditions.

"They have been following the stars to navigate, singing to keep their spirits high, battling huge waves and surviving hurricanes. They only took mosquito nets to sleep in, but people have been generous along the way, putting them up when they hear they are coming to their island."


The men have braved hurricanes and huge waves in their kayaking adventure across the Caribbean Sea – and have won the admiration of Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard met the group as they arrived at Necker Island, where they are now resting before the next leg of their bid.

The challenge began in June after seven months of planning.

The group's arrival at Necker Island comes after they paddled their vessels for a gruelling 33 hours along a notorious stretch of water known as the Anegada Passage.


After 12 miles of the 90-mile journey, Edmund had to be taken to hospital with severe seasickness, leaving the other three to battle on. In a post on the team's website, Tom McAlpine said: "The decision was taken to continue the crossing as a three. Progress was painfully slow.

"We then lost our communications after our satellite phone broke – we were well and truly alone at sea.

"When day broke at 6am we had only covered half the distance, despite having been kayaking for 20 hours.

"Luckily, with 30 miles to go, Woody's brother Lochie was dropped in by helicopter to fill the empty seat."

The team's efforts has raised more than £31,000 for charity so far. The money will be divided between The Centre for Children's Rare Disease Research at Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Lyla Nsouli Foundation for children's brain cancer research.

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