Adaptive rower Paul Smith remains committed to cross-Channel challenge in the face of seasonal setbacks.

“Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”

Those are the words of Yoko Ono but they apply perfectly to the experience of Paul Smith, the adaptive rower from Portsmouth who is planning to row single-handed across the English Channel.

It’s been three months since Globaleather first covered the Navy Veteran’s story as he continues his preparations for the attempt in support of Breast Cancer Haven. We caught up with him after a morning’s training.


“It’s frustrating,” he says. Winter weather and adverse sea conditions have interrupted his on-water training but he’s a realist. “I like to get things done but this is about safety. Things are going well when I’m out on the water.”

A virus Paul contracted before Christmas was another jolt. Paul, left needing a wheelchair after an accident in 1991, admits, “It was pretty serious. People say I’m a strong fighter. We just had to make sure my medication was right.”

Following the virus Paul has only just returned to full training most of which has inevitably been in the gym. This consists of managed three-week blocks: an ‘easy week’, followed by a ‘build week’, followed by a ‘hard week’, with a ‘very easy week’ every six weeks or so to aid recovery. Most training takes place on the ergo (rowing machine), with weight training and core work carefully built in.

Paul has, so far, spent over 800 hours in the gym in preparation for the row and says it is “going really well.” But it’s not enough. “It’s all about getting the on-water time because that’s where it’s going to happen. A rowing machine isn’t the same. But I’m buoyant, I’m positive. I’m enjoying it. It’s just a waiting game.”

This is for Marjorie Anne

Donations for Breast Cancer Haven are coming in but Paul’s search for a main sponsor goes on. Even so, he’s determined that the row will go ahead in memory of his friend who died of breast cancer in 2017.

“I just want to do this for Marjorie Anne and breast cancer sufferers. Marjorie Anne was a very big inspiration to me. Even if we had 10,000 households donate £1 each – it might sound embarrassing but £1 becomes £2 becomes thousands. It would be great to get up to £10,000.”

Pushing against the waves

On a rare on-water session recently the sea state suddenly altered, the wind got up and conditions became choppy. How do you react to the sea in this mood?

“I prefer to row into it. If it’s coming at you from a quarter it throws you about and you’re always having to pull harder with one arm… Some prefer the sea behind them. I don’t. I’ve got more control when I’m pushing into it.”

Pushing, persevering. The winter is far from over but Paul Smith is not giving up.

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