And he’s off! Rower sets off from Portsmouth on his epic 2,300-mile paddle

Royal Naval veteran  Richard Hunt at HMS Victory, the last ship he served on, before his kayak around the UK''Picture: Paul Jacobs (141042-4)

Royal Naval veteran Richard Hunt at HMS Victory, the last ship he served on, before his kayak around the UK''Picture: Paul Jacobs (141042-4)

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Navy veteran Richard Hunt set off today on his epic solo paddle around Britain.

The navy veteran set off early today on his bid to kayak around the UK from the city’s dockyard, where the deck of HMS Victory had yesterday proved the perfect place from which to launch his fundraising drive.

For it was the last ship the 43-year-old served on in admin with the Royal Navy, before he had to leave after losing his leg.

Richard, from Portchester, returned to the ship in Portsmouth yesterday to officially launch his world record attempt, which will take more than five months to kayak 2,300 miles around the coast of Britain.

For any able-bodied person that would be a massive challenge, but for Richard, who only has one leg, it will also break the world record for the longest solo kayak journey.

Richard, who has had a tattoo done of him in his kayak on his chest, said: ‘This is the last ship I served on in the Royal Navy – it’s a real honour to be here.’

Richard joined the navy as an Able Seaman in radar operation at 17 but got a knee injury playing rugby.

He suffered nerve damage and after 20 operations, had the leg amputated.

Richard hopes that his kayak will raise £20,000 for the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen’s Association (Blesma) after they helped him come to terms with losing his leg and introduced him back to sport.

Richard said: ‘I’d been toying with the idea of setting myself a major challenge to raise money and awareness for Blesma. That was the birth of The Great Paddle Round.’

A special waterproof prosthetic leg has been made by Ottobock.

Richard said: ‘Since receiving the prosthetic in February 2013, I’ve been training every day. I have been gaining valuable experience on adapting kayaking techniques and the kayak itself for someone missing a leg. It is going to be a tough challenge for me but I’m determined to put my all into it.’

Ian Waller, operations director at Blesma, said: ‘Hopefully not only will he raise money for our charity, he will also raise awareness.

‘We hope that although it’s going to be arduous and inspirational that he gets round as quickly as possible.’

Lieutenant Commander Rod Strathern, the 100th officer of HMS Victory, Fareham MP Mark Hoban and mayor of Fareham Cllr Susan Bayford were among the crowd that gathered to wish him well.

Richard left from Royal Clarence Marina in Gosport today at 5am. His first stop will be Lymington.

To see his progress follow @richieoneleg on Twitter. To make a donation go to justgiving.com/richieoneleg

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