Slippery slope for poppy appeal

HURTLING down an ice track at 90mph with your face just inches from the ground does not sound like the ideal way to spend a few days.But a group of plucky, if slightly foolhardy, individuals will be tackling one of winter sport's most legendary challenges to raise £50,000 for charity.

HURTLING down an ice track at 90mph with your face just inches from the ground does not sound like the ideal way to spend a few days.

But a group of plucky, if slightly foolhardy, individuals will be tackling one of winter sport's most legendary challenges to raise £50,000 for charity.

The Cresta Run at St Moritz, Switzerland, is regarded as more dangerous than bobsleigh with a naturally made ice track having a tendency to throw racers from their flat wooden toboggans.

But this has not deterred a team from the Royal British Legion Eastern Counties, with little or no experience and aged between 57 and 70 years old , facing the dangers head-on to raise money for their Poppy Appeal.


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Legion county field officer Jonathan Collins, based in Bury St Edmunds and taking part in the challenge, joked that watching a video of the run had made him even more frightened.

He said: "When we first thought about it, you don't realise time is going to catch up with you. As things get closer, it is something you look forward to but also have a general apprehension about.

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"The Cresta Run is exciting and the run is fascinating – it is three quarters of a mile long and you can go speeds of up to 70mph. There are lots of bends and turns and places where you can come off."

The team, made up of ten members all looking to complete the solo course five times, is made up of five members from Suffolk and also includes the Legion's Chief of General Staff Sir Mike Jackson.

The county-based members are Mr Collins, who lives in Fressingfield, Robin Hitchcock, from Snape, Richard de Lacy, from Waldringfield, David Sadler-Bridge, from Debenham, and John Storey, Aldeburgh, who, at 70 years old, is the oldest member of the team.

Each rider goes down the 514ft drop head first on a small solo toboggan reaching speeds of up to 80 miles an hour with braking performed by serrated metal toecaps.

The course, built from scratch every year using the natural contours of the valley and earth banks, boasts ten testing corners including the feared Shuttlecock.

It was the unusual aspect of the fundraiser that appealed to the charity chiefs.

Mr Collins said: "The charity is always looking for new ideas for fund raising. I think if you can catch people's imagination, you can raise a lot more money than if you ride around Bury St Edmunds on a bicycle.

The group will fly to Switzerland next weekand just one day later, will tackle the course for the first time.

Mr Collins said: "As the run is the only one of its kind in existence, we cannot train on a simulated run so the first time will be the real run. General fitness training has been all we can do."

Colin Hawkins , chairman of the Suffolk Royal British Legion, said: "I wish all these participants the very best of luck – they are all mad."

Each member of the team wants to raise £5,000 each and anyone who would like to donate money can contact the legion's county field office on 01284 725833.

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