The Devizes to Westminster (DW) International Canoe Race is arguably the hardest canoe race in the world. 125 miles non-stop from Devizes in Wiltshire to Westminster Bridge in London. In a double kayak (K2) or double Canadian boat (C2)
A kayak is powered using a double ended paddle and has a rudder. A Canadian or open boat, is paddled using a single blade and a rudder is not allowed.
The DW was first raced in 1948, 66 years ago and the first female competitor completed the race in 1971 in a K2. The DW four day singles event started 29 years ago in 1985 and since then over 1,000 paddlers have completed the race in a single boat including the 2013 event but only 15 of those were in a single canoe (C1).
In the history of the DW, there is no record of a lady paddler ever having completed the event in a C1 and the same can be said about the Waterside Canoe race series which is four races on the DW course leading up to the main event.
Well first reason on the list is clearly because it is “quite hard”. It is THE most challenging vessel to paddle of all race categories and to do it for 125 miles over four days not forgetting the 77 portages where the boat has to be carried around locks and weirs, is not for the faint hearted.
Another possible reason is the availability of a suitable boat. The current choice is somewhat restricted to traditional family, wilderness and touring crafts which tend to be large, robust and heavy, to the sprint, high-kneelers which are “somewhat” unstable. There are also American boats but they are few and far between in the UK and prohibitively expensive.
That is about to change.
Over the last three years I have developed a lightweight racing C1 which:
- Weighs 8kgs fully configured
- Is made of carbon fibre
- Conforms to the International Canoe Federation (ICF) specification for racing
- Is paddled sitting down using a sit&switch technique
- Has a mid-range stability rate of about 4 – 5
- And looks absolutely stunning!
For the 2014 Waterside series and DW, two of these canoes known as ”The Darkness” will be paddled by two lady competitors who will attempt to make history.
This blog documents the story of this venture and the progress from when I hand over the boats to the athletes to when they arrive at Westminster Bridge on Easter Monday 21st April 2014.
I hope you find it of interest.