Royal Baby: Prince William’s Highbury friend speaks of excitement

PUBLISHED: 17:15 22 July 2013 | UPDATED: 17:15 22 July 2013

The Duchess of Cambridge attends a Garden Party in the grounds of Buckingham Palace, central London hosted by Queen Elizabeth II.

The Duchess of Cambridge attends a Garden Party in the grounds of Buckingham Palace, central London hosted by Queen Elizabeth II.

PA Wire/Press Association Images

A close friend of Prince William, who lives in Highbury, spoke of his excitement ahead of the birth of the Duke and Duchess’s first child as he arrived back from what is believed to be the first recorded kayak crossing of the North Sea between Britain and Norway.

Oliver Hicks, 31, of Highbury Corner, said he was looking forward to being introduced to the infant after battling seven ft waves on the 200-mile mission with fellow rower Patrick Winterton.

Mr Hicks, who attended the royal wedding and was greeted by the Prince when he became the youngest person to row solo from America to Britain aged 23, said: “I was very keen to find out whether William and Kate’s baby had arrived on making landfall.

“It was very exciting to hear the baby is now on its way as we landed back in the UK. It is such great – and very happy – news.

“I hope it all goes smoothly and wonder if the little one will be like William or Kate.

“I look forward to meeting the nipper in due course.”

The adventurer set off from Whalsay, in the Sheland Islands, on Wednesday with Mr Winterton, 52, a sports commentator from Oban in Scotland. The duo arrived on the pier in Bergen, Norway on Friday night, some 63 hours later.

Their mission, in a double sea kayak, retraced the route taken during the Shetland Bus operation in the Second World War when a fleet of small fishing boats were used to smuggle people out of Nazi-occupied Norway.

Mr Hicks and Mr Winterton attempted to make the same voyage in 2011 but were forced to abandon that crossing when hypothermia set in.

This time they were hit by massive waves which made for an uncomfortable journey and slept for little more than three hours at night.

Mr Hicks said: “Unfortunately Patrick succumbed to sea sickness on the second day and struggled to hold down water and food making the voyage doubly hard for him - due to extreme dehydration and lack of energy.

“The weather was really unrelenting. The wind remained at force five and six most of the time and the sun didn’t show itself through the fog until the final day at sea.

“We were stuck in a monochrome scene of grey sea and grey sky for two and a half days. This made the paddling very monotonous, with nothing other than a few seabirds to look at. We saw only five ships on the way across and only two oil rigs in the distance. No one saw us in our tiny craft –we were just a speck on the sea, picking our way through the waves to the safety and rest of Norway’s rocky shores.”

The rowers have raised around £2,000 for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the Make-a-Wish Foundation which grants the requests of children fighting life-threatening illnesses.

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