INTREPID former Mayor Mark Brooks will be taking to the waves in an arduous North Channel water bike challenge. The Donaghadee councillor hopes to peddle his way into the record books as the first person to cross the North Channel from his home town to Portpatrick in Scotland on a water bike. As the borough’s former first citizen, Mark hopes his fundraising feat will give his two chosen charities, the Ards Peninsula First Responders and the Sir Samuel Kelly project with Donaghadee Heritage Preservation Company, a welcome boost. Mark admits he is ‘extremely nervous’ about taking to the waves next month on his water bike – a bicycle and surfboard combination.

Determined to give his cross channel challenge his all, Mark will be joined by his support team of Dawn Henley, Liam Curran and Josh Eastwood with Quinton Nelson guiding them across the 34.5km stretch. Explaining his motivation, Mark said: “I wanted to raise funds for my two charities so I thought I would cross the North Channel on my sea bike. When I have this completed that will be my mayoral duties finished.”

The North Channel is one of the most difficult channels for open swimmers and as one of the Oceans Seven it is known for its fickle weather, rough seas, tough currents and an abundance of jellyfish. Said Mark: “It is a big challenge and it is going to be hard but I will be accompanied by my cycling coach Liam Curran and he will be crossing the channel with me on a bike. “He is there to guide me and help motivate me.

Dawn Henley and Joshua Eastwood, who completed a marathon every day in May last year and raised £25,000 for charity, will be in the support group and might peddle a little as well.” Said Mark: “Quinton Nelson, who is a local expert, will be on the safety boat and will help with the tides, he will be keeping us correct. We are hoping to go early September and we will be following the same route as the open water swimmers.” He spoke of his prechallenge nerves saying: “I am extremely nervous. I am on a paddleboard and it looks easy but I don’t have any balance. The moment I touch the water I am paddling to save my life.”

However, Mark has certainly clocked up hours of preparation saying: “I have been practising for a year. It has attracted a lot of attention when people see someone cycling on the water and they haven’t seen one before. “I would describe it like riding a horse in the water. You are up high and I would see all the jelly fish and let the open water swimmers know. The Chunky Dunkers have been very supportive.”

As well as his time on the water, Mark has been clocking up the miles on dry land: “I have been practising on my Wattbike doing an hour every day and I am a member of North Down Cycling Club so have been cycling on the road with them.”

Looking ahead to his challenge, Mark said: “The North Channel is one of the most treacherous passages of water. It will be a unique experience and it will also be quite poignant. “The route will take up close to where the Princess Victoria sank in 1953 and where the Sir Samuel Kelly lifeboat went to the rescue.

Having been in business in Donaghadee for 30 years you would have looked over to Portpatrick. “Donaghadee was the original port, it was the gateway to Northern Ireland from Scotland, so there is so much history particularly with the cross channel swimmers.” Appealing for public support and donations Mark said: “I have served my borough and town and now I ask the public to support me in this challenge.”

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