Comic Relief: Billy Monger trains for 140-mile challenge in Chichester

Double amputee racing driver Billy Monger took on a triathlon-inspired challenge for Comic Relief last month – and Chichester played a huge part in helping him prepare him for it.

Over the course of four days Billy, who had to have both of his lower legs amputated after a crash during a Formula 4 race at Donnington Park in 2017, walked, kayaked and cycled 140 miles – but first he had to learn how to kayak.

In January, Chichester Ship Canal Trust granted the 21-year-old permission to take to the canal to train in his modified kayak and be filmed for his Red Nose Day special.

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Janet Osborne, volunteer with the canal trust, said: “The whole crew – from Comic Relief, the professional photographer, the external production company, the personal trainer and Billy himself – were all charming.

Billy Monger training for his Comic Relief challenge on Chichester Canal. Photo by Richard Gatley

“It was a pleasure to meet Billy and company, to offer up the canal facilities and tell them all about the canal.

“Billy trained for a couple of days and found the canal to offer perfect conditions.

“We wish him and Comic Relief every success and hopefully plenty of money will be raised for very good causes.”

The trust was not the only local organisation to help Billy with his training though, with University of Chichester lecturer Matt Berry also offering his expertise.

Billy Monger with University of Chichester lecturer Matt Berry at Chichester Harbour

Matt, who has worked at the University of Chichester for nearly 20 years teaching on its outdoor and adventure education degree, is a whitewater specialist and a former UK canoe competitor.

He said: “I was asked to get involved with Comic Relief by British Canoeing: it was mid-February and the weather was so bad in the Lake District that they wanted to give him some one-to-one coaching.

“We took him to Dell Quay in Chichester Harbour. It was still blowing a gale but it worked well because anyone can look like a good kayaker on glossy water on a perfect day, so I think he learned quite a lot under the challenge of fierce tides and heavy rain. I’m not sure it helped cameras, though.

“The BBC Comic Relief team told me that he’d had lots of training on a kayak training machine, which is really nothing like being out in the open water, but I could see he relished the challenge.

Billy Monger training for his Comic Relief challenge on Chichester Canal with his coach. Photo by Janet Osborne

“Above all, he was fearless, energetic, and had a good sense of humour. I’ve seen a few clips of Billy since our coaching session saying that he enjoyed kayaking the most across the challenge – and he did take to it quickly.

“Billy’s dedication to training had really paid off. I hadn’t competed in a long time, so it was definitely a challenge keeping up with him in the end.”

• Billy Monger’s Big Red Nose Day Challenge will be broadcast on BBC One at 9pm on Thursday (March 18).


Billy Monger on the pontoon at Chichester Canal with his coach during training for his Comic Relief challenge. Photo by Janet Osborne

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