Kayakers Allen and Whelan shatter Ireland circumnavigation speed record


Paddling around Ireland battling sub zero temperatures, strong headwinds and heavy seas is difficult to imagine for a day, how about 25 straight days. Come to find out that’s now the fastest anyone has completed a circumnavigation of Ireland by paddle.

Britain’s Jeff Allen and Irish paddler Harry Whelan dug deep, emptied the tanks and crushed the 20-year-old speed record for sea kayaking around Ireland. They completed the circumnavigation in 25 days; the previous record was 33 days.

Canoe and Kayak caught up with Allen for a candid interview about what it meant to accomplish such a feet.

C&K: What was it like to cross the finish line?
JEFF ALLEN: “It was really quite surreal, neither Harry nor I had any real sleep in the last two to three days and we had started to hallucinate over the previous 12 hours. As we approached the quay ck-allen-ireland-handwe saw a crowd and assumed it to be busy so we looked to land at a nearby beach when Harry spotted Vaughan’s [a friend who offered land-based expedition support] van at the head of the slipway. We decided to brave the crowds and then realized when they started to applaud and the bagpipes started playing that they were there for us. [It] all became quite an emotional moment, but we were so knackered. I hadn’t moved from my cockpit for 29 hours and needed help to stand.”

From Jeff Allen: “Bruised and swollen hands from sun poisoning, infected blisters and carpal tunnel syndrome/tynosynivitus.” Photo: Jeff Allen

You must have some serious “saddle sores” and blisters and such. Did the expedition take serious tolls on your bodies? “I suffered blisters and sun sores [that] became quite infected, [and] during the last 54 hours of paddling I also suffered cramps in the back and stomach. Harry also had issues with his hands and on top of this [had] saltwater sores beneath his arms and round his waist.”

Read the full Interview