Kayaker with type 1 diabetes sets new record for round-Britain trip

Dougal Glaisher

A kayaker from Somerset has broken the record for kayaking around Britain, while raising awareness of diabetes.

Dougal Glaisher, 23, broke the previous record by 27 days when he arrived in Suffolk at 5.40pm on Tuesday (11 July 2023) — finishing the 3,218km (2,000-mile) challenge in 40 days.

Glaisher, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes aged 20, has been raising money for Action4Diabetes, a charity that supports disadvantaged, diabetic children in Southeast Asia.

Dougal Glaisher

Speaking to the Guardian, Glaisher says: “I’m proving to myself and other people with type 1 diabetes that it doesn’t need to hold you back.

“It’s been a massive challenge but I have really enjoyed it. It’s been such a big adventure, seeing loads of wildlife, minke whales and dolphins. The scenery around Britain is beautiful.”

Glaisher started kayaking at the age of 15, and was first coached by former Great Britain (GB) ocean racer Jim Taylor-Ross.

Taylor-Ross tells the BBC: “Dougal was immediately a natural in the boat, quickly picking up the technique and developing a very efficient, fast but relaxed style.”

Glaisher has competed in numerous international canoe races, and won the Oban Sea Kayak race in Scotland at the age of 19. However, shortly after this he began to experience blurred vision and fatigue. He was diagnosed with diabetes after seeing a doctor.

“When I was diagnosed, I definitely didn’t imagine I’d be doing something like this a few years later. I didn’t know it was possible,” he tells the BBC.

Glaisher began his trip on 2 June 2023, and has been monitored by Taylor-Ross and his wife, Annabel, who also tracked his live blood sugar levels via a tiny sensor under Glaisher’s skin.

Glaisher survived on a diet of freeze-dried meals but had to survive on porridge for several days in a remote region of Scotland. He camped most nights during his voyage, although sometimes landed an offer of a bed and meal from strangers.

Speaking to the BBC, Taylor-Ross says: “He will never let the diabetes take control of him. He’s changed the boundaries forever.”

Glaisher, who spent last year kayaking 3,400 miles around the Mediterranean, adds: “For now, it’s just about resting, but there will definitely be more adventures to come.”

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