A TEAM of canoeists planning to cross the English Channel will start their journey from Portland.

Ben Collins, Dwayne Cadwallader, Colin Richardson, Matt Allmond, Richard Bentley and Stuart Gilks are raising money for five charities and will depart from Portland Marina at the beginning of June.

They will cover around 200km and will spend nearly 40 hours at sea using three Klepper canoes.

The challenge coincides with the 70th anniversary of the Normandy invasion in June, 1944.

Stuart Gilks said: “The aim of this challenge is to pay respect to the thousands of men who sailed from Portland for the benefit of future generations in Europe and to raise money for five worthy charities.”

Each canoe crew will be named after an operation that featured in the Normandy invasion: Overlord, Neptune, and Tonga.

They will arrive at a rendezvous point near to the village of Arromanches-les-Bain, visiting the site code-named ‘Gold Beach’, the centre of the D-Day landings.

Stuart said the idea came about rather suddenly in January.

He said: “My dad said at Christmas that he wanted to go out there and meet my brother. So I thought that would be great.”

The team’s original route would have seen them face the notorious Portland Race – a meeting of the tides between Portland Bill and the Shambles sandbank.

However, after experiencing turbulent waters at a recent training session, the plan has been modified.

Stuart said: “The plan is to head out of the south gate of the harbour and head out to the north of the Shambles, avoiding any of the turbulent races around Portland.”

Up until recently each canoeist had been undertaking their own tailored training programme.

Stuart said: “It is down to each individual member to make sure they are as physically fit as much as possible.

“We are not canoeists and we are not athletes. We are just normal people.”

The weather will play a part in determining which day the team’s challenge starts, with June 3 and June 4 both currently being debated.

For more information on how you can make a much-needed contribution to The Normandy Klepper Challenge, please visit normandyklepperchallenge.co.uk/donate