Waterside D, the final gruelling and demanding preparatory race was held last week over 34 miles and 35 portages – day 1 of DW (Devizes to Westminster). This race held particular significance as to guarantee a place on the DW start line, this race needed to be both completed and also in under 9 hours.
After a successful 12-mile training session last weekend and a swap around of Will & Barney, the now familiar and strong partnerships departed Devizes in 2 groups around 20 minutes apart at just after 7am. In front of them lay 16 tough miles upstream without any portages, the dark Bruce Tunnel under the Savernake Forest, a grumpy swan just before Pewsey and 35 portages – 5 of which fall within the same mile – and the inevitable increase in ‘amateur’ narrowboat traffic, not to mention the energy sapping remaining 18 miles.
All boats set a demanding pace in the early stages with little to separate them time-wise for the initial 10 miles; the brutality & severity of portages after Pewsey around Wootton Rivers and Crofton Pumping Station, where the Kennet & Avon changes to flow with the race started to take its toll and the boats started to move apart. The race between the 3 boats in the latter group kept on at a ferocious pace until just before Hungerford, Beth & Coni suffered a rudder failure being that they had to stop for repairs but, once back on the water, they continued their pace. Shortly after Hungerford, having caught Zoë & Fliss & trying to stay with them, Ben pulled a muscle in his back forcing him to retire, meaning that after a long stop, Barney had to carry on in a K1 until eventually retiring just before Kintbury.
Ahead of them, Henry & Archie continued pounding away at the mileage, opening up a gap on the other 2 boats leaving Will & Ollie and Mark & Kaj to battle it out between them with Mark & Kaj eventually pushing ahead of Will & Ollie, for whom this was a huge step up from their previous maximum of 18 miles, having both been ill previously.
An astonishing race by all paddlers who all qualified for the 125 mile Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race over the Easter weekend. Particular mention must go to both the Junior Ladies K2 pairings who came in 5th & 7th in around 7 hours but honours must go to Zoë & Fliss who came an astonishing 2nd in the Waterside Series against opposition that has been together for considerably longer and beating the third place opponents by over 1.5 hours!! A huge congratulations!
As previously stated, this is an incredible squad that is able to combine competitiveness seamlessly with team spirit and all in aid of raising funds to help their extraordinarily brave & positive friend, Ellie Holt who is still incarnated in RSCH, waiting for a spare in the Intestinal Failure Unit in Southampton prior to going to the US for life changing treatment https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/get-ellie-eating
As always, a huge thank you to all the parents & support teams and to Charlie Lunt and the coaching team.