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Strong Thames currents end fundraising water bicycle bid
A BIZARRE water bicycle, which lay unused in a shed for years, had its first bid for glory scuppered by strong river currents.
Terry Hammond set off on Friday from Lechlade on an ambitious charity cycle ride down the Thames. But he only got as far as Godstow, Oxford, when a lock-keeper advised him on Sunday that the contraption would not get to London safely in the strong currents.
He hopes to be able to try again in the Spring.
Mr Hammond discovered the unique, hand-built contraption, nicknamed “Skippy”, after searching on the internet.
The unusual bicycle is the result of years of hard work by Oxford academic David Witt.
Mr Witt said: “This is not just a bicycle in water, those have been made since the 19th century.
“If you want to make a boat that is fast, you want to make it long and thin, but then it falls over.
“Skippy has two floats above the level of the water which don’t impede the movement but act as breaks.”
Mr Witt and his colleagues at the Oxford University department of engineering began work on their prototype in 1984, described as “a pretty amateur job”.
The first effort kept falling over, which prompted the addition of the floats.
After years of revision, the final Skippy hit the water in 2003.
However, Mr Witt had already retired in 1999, and felt he was past the point where he wanted to keep falling in the water testing his creation.
So, Skippy ended up in storage for almost 10 years until an email arrived out of the blue from Southampton resident, Mr Hammond.
Mr Hammond came down to take a look in January, then tried it out in the spring. In July he took it on its first real journey in 10 years, eight miles down the river to Eynsham.
Mr Hammond, 65, said: “I have raised funds before and I tend to go for wacky ideas. I try to do that both to bring a smile to people’s faces, and to raise people’s awareness of mental health, for people to take more notice of their mental health and not to be frightened of it.
“When I did the training run it was absolutely fantastic. From a distance it does look like I’m riding a bike on the river, lots of people were smiling and cheering me. It certainly brings a smile to people’s face.”
Mr Hammond’s son Stephen has schizophrenia, and he was raising money for mental health charity Rethink.