Seaford students complete gruelling DW kayaking race (part 2)

At the end of the raceYesterday, we wrote about the Seaford students who’d taken on the epic challenge of kayaking from Devizes to Westminster, a 125 mile race. If you missed it, you can read the first part of their story.

With their training and preparation races completed, five students from Seaford College and one from Heathfield School set off on their epic four-day challenge, kayaking from Devizes to Westminster. Henry and Cally, Ethan and Evie, and Izzy and Franny set off in their boats early on the morning of 14th April.

The first three days involved paddling over 30 miles a day, and on the final day, a tough 17 mile paddle from Teddington, up the Thames to Westminster, awaited them. Each day, the morning starts were early, and the students weren’t allowed to feed themselves whilst paddling, so they had to rely on their amazing support crew meeting them at portages and stops, giving them fluid and energy to keep them going. And, if kayaking for over 7 hours wasn’t enough, at the end of each day they had to set up camp by themselves with tired arms. “Each day saw every crew struggle at times, with sore bodies, blistered hands, cramp and general exhaustion, and after each day they had to cook and fend for themselves on shattered and painful bodies, with hands in ribbons,” said Charles, Henry’s father and trainer of the students.

End of a long day of Kayaking

For Charles, being in the support crew was a very new experience, and it opened his eyes to what’s involved. “Bill and I had always been at the other end, paddling it. We’d never really recognized the true job that support crews do. But we were hugely grateful for a truly supportive parent group. They had to work really hard, getting up early mornings, staying up late evenings. Dominic Marchant, Evie’s father, even ended up being our boatman, doing running repairs on a weekly basis.”

“The support was really needed in the race,” Evie said. “We had to be fed at each portage, and you can’t touch the food with your hands, so it was vital we had that support.”

Cally fully agreed with this. “Each portage they would feed us, and actually feed us, with their fingers. We couldn’t have done it without them.”

Finally, after four days, 125 miles, 77 portages, and over 25 hours of paddling, the three crews made it up the final stretch at Westminster, passing under Westminster Bridge to complete their epic journey.

Paddling the final stretch of DW

And how did they all feel after completing the race? (apart from being truly shattered)

Ethan found it tough, but also thought there were plenty of high moments during the journey. “Definitely camping was quite high. Each day was a challenge, so it was quite enjoyable finishing.”

“I’m glad I did it,” added Evie. “There were many times, during training, when we didn’t think we’d even get to the start line, let alone the finish line, so to get there was a really good feeling.

“I’d had a sports injury, so even doing 12 miles at the start was really hard,” said Izzy. “I didn’t think that within a month and a half of that I’d be doing 125 miles. I just didn’t think I could do it and I did, so I was really proud of myself. I was really proud of the whole team.”

And how did Henry feel at the end, having started it all off? “You get to the end and you think about how far you’ve come. It’s pretty much the width of the country. And you’ve gone on your shoulders and arms and your hips. It was an exhausting experience, but I’m glad I did it.”

Relaxing at the end of the race: Izzy, Henry, Cally, Evie and Ethan, from Seaford, and Franny, from Heathfield

Relaxing at the end of the race

It was clearly a draining and emotional experience for everyone involved, and a remarkable achievement from Seaford’s young paddler’s. “Words fail me,” Bill told us. “The willpower they had. They just did it. Hats off to them. They’ve got that on their CV for the rest of their lives.”

Charles, as both a trainer, and Henry’s father, was full of pride and admiration for them all. “Bill and I, as their coaches, are so proud and delighted for them, particularly when, at times, they (& others) have doubted their ability to make it. Henry, Cally, Ethan, Evie and Izzy have trained exceptionally hard and should be elated with their accomplishment and have truly shown their mental toughness and durability.  They will achieve whatever they want to in life now. They have that willpower, they have that determination. And they’ve created a great legacy for the school, that will hopefully be the first of many years of DW.”

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