Bank Support – the good, the bad and the ugly! (part 1)

I’ve only bank supported Waterside a couple of times and never DW, but even those few occasions have convinced me that the paddlers get off lightly as they “only” have to paddle.

Meanwhile on dry land, support crews scramble to get to the right place at the right time to take the abuse from the competitors. Do they know (or care) what it takes to make it to the portage with a delicious energy bar, carbo drink and jolly banter? I think not.

However, from the canoeist point of view, portages provide a fascinating insight to the approach, behaviour and characteristics of those who commit themselves to support their crews.

A “typical” bank support enthusiast tends to fall into one of a number of categories, and exhibit a set of stereotypical idiosyncrasies.

So let’s consider the type of person who supports Waterside and the four day DW event. Any resemblance to persons alive or dead is purely coincidental…………..honest!

The Yummy Mummy

Samantha is super excited yah, to be supporting Tarquin and his partner Quentin (T & Q) in their little boat on the K&A. She popped into Waitrose for Duchy Originals for the boys on the way and thinks there may be two left in the packet.

Demure and chic in the latest from Boden (new spring/summer ‘14 collection) and green Hunter wellies (which one always wears in the country you know), she parks the four-by-four on a clear bit of road across the front of someone’s drive that no one has spotted. “I’m sure they won’t mind for a few minutes, it is a Volvo you know.”

She and her friend Fiona drove up early from Kensington and once they’ve done their duty, they thought a light lunch in a quaint little restaurant in Hungerford would be a hoot and then a look around the antique shops.

So, what does one do? Samantha (never Sam!) and Fiona make their way to the lock and on to the tow path which seems frightfully muddy. Two chaps with a canoe on their shoulders run past, straight through a puddle. “Do you mind, this outfit is new!”………louts!

Now, where are they? A K2 in the distinctive red and gold colours of Saint Cerils approaches. “it’s them”, “oh come on Tarquin darling, bravo!” “That’s splendid, daddy would be so proud”. The crew run by exchanging glances, it isn’t Tarquin!

After five minutes KBS (Kensington Bank Support) are getting bored and wander over to look at the lock (whatever that is). Tarquin approaches the portage and spots the distinctive pink hoody. He and Quentin shoulder the boat wishing for Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. Too late, Samantha and Fiona are beside themselves with excitement, “hurrah for Saint Ceril’s”…………….“wait Tarquin, wait”.

T & Q sprint for the put-in. “Tarquin darling, mummy must have a photo”. Samantha tugs out her iPhone which apparently has a camera. She struggles to take a picture and waits until lots of boats have gone by to get a clear panorama, she is certain that T & Q can easily catch them up again. “Now one with me in” she says flinging the phone towards Fiona (a proud technophobe).

“Do you have any food mum?” “Food? oh yes there’s some biscuits in the car, shall I get them?

T & Q paddle hard to get away from the shouts of encouragement following them towards Newbury.

“Gosh that was fun, time for lunch?” Samantha and Fiona are surprised that all the traffic seems to have stopped when they return to the car. “Shift that vehicle NOW!” oh what a rude man!

The Coach

Mr Stevens has coached crews from Kimarlauntsey school for the last six years. He takes the youngsters after Christmas and makes men of them by Easter, even the girls. A rigid training programme of paddling, running, circuit training and swimming (or capsizing as it’s known) in the cold and wet soon toughens up the little reprobates. It’s good character building stuff and they’ll all thank him for it one day.

Sergeant-Major Stevens misses his old regiment, but his well-preserved parade voice that has had many a squaddie quaking in their boots is just as effective for the little herberts now under his command. It’s such a shame that one can’t beat children any more “spare the rod, spoil the child” it never did him any harm.

He is rather proud of this year’s team although he’ll never admit it even under torture. They trained well and with the right amount of shouting at, should beat those wimps from Sir Wandsfordleigh. There’s a score to settle from last year, “two minutes, TWO minutes” that won’t happen again during his watch.

Ah, here comes Clegg and Cameron. Took a while to gel these two, but they work well together towards a common goal. They are looking really good, a coalition of strong strokes, excellent timing and a fast pace. “that’s rubbish paddling, I taught you better than that, put some effort in”.

Now here’s Torville and Dean, a mixed crew who have practiced endlessly together even through the snow and ice of February. They’re holding the wash of Sir Wandsfordleigh’s top crew and looking smooth and relaxed. Mr Stevens suppresses a look of pride and satisfaction “get your skates on you two” he hollers.

That’s the whole team through except Kourtney and Khloe (some parents and their stupid names). The girls have such a stylist paddle stroke, hardly causing a splash and certainly not raising a sweat, good speed though. “come along ladies, stop laughing, stop smiling and STOP SINGING” Do they have to wear those shocking pink hats, what’s wrong with the ex-commando skull caps he got for them?

The first timers

Colin and Graham offered to help Jake and Barney after the regular team went down with a dose of the trots (don’t ask!) Away from their computers, Xbox, PS2 and tablets, they only have their smart phones for security and the 4G coverage is rubbish.

They have absolutely no idea what to do, but they’re fast learners. OK, they messed up at Wotton Rivers but it’s not easy to decide between a Jaffa Cake and a Fig Roll so they eat both. Jake and Barney top-crew (JBTC) were a bit cross as they waited whilst TBST (top bank support team) unwrapped a sausage roll and it wasn’t their fault that it fell in the water.

The SatNav app got them to Crofton and although it was a bit of a walk from the car, TBST are ready with an array of top nosh all laid out on the bank. But why are JBTC running past, they don’t seem to want to paddle the short stretches of water between some of the locks?

TBST pile everything into a bag and set off in hot pursuit but JBTC are long gone by the time they get to the end. Key learning point: wait at the put-in point and not the get-out place.

TBST get back to the car and consult the DW-schedule app. They won’t make Great Bedwyn but they should be in time for Little Bedwyn.

Ha, no other support crew at Little Bedwyn only a DW Marshall in a hi-vis vest, he’ll be impressed that TBST made this portage their own. JBTC come storming into the portage and completely ignore TBST! “Are these your support team?” asks the Marshall “NO” says JBTC. “That’s good because this portage is out-of-bounds to DW support crews”

TBST slink back to their car. With renewed determination they plan for Hungerford. 4G coverage is strong and they phone the regular support team for advice.

Hungerford is a triumph. Colin waits at the get-out place and phones Graham as JBTC approaches and legs it to join him. The energy bar is unwrapped and a bite-sized piece is broken off. A new drink bottle is ready. JBTC get in the boat and TBST are straight in with replacement bottles and stuff the energy bar in the crews mouths.

Colin and Graham beam with pride and hit the high fives. “Nothing to this bank support lark and after all, we are the TBST. Onward to Dun Mill!”

More to come, no one is safe…:-)

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