DW 2014 – Day 1. Devizes to Newbury – 34 miles, 35 portages

It was bright, warm and sunny when we got to Devizes for the start of day 1, basically a re-run of Waterside D.

On WS D, we enjoyed a 10 mph tail wind, but a nagging head wind was to dog us all day.

We couldn’t understand why parking was such a problem because the junior K2s should have all left and the senior singles start afterwars. Unfortunately a body had been found in the water just 100 metres up from the start and the Police had closed the canal until it was cleared.

Of all the scenarios the DW organisers had envisaged, a dead body was probably not on the list of contingency plans. But all credit to them, they stayed cool and waited it out.

So Devizes wharf took on a carnival atmosphere as hundreds of frustrated paddlers milled around waiting for the start.

Devizes wharf, waiting to start

Devizes wharf, waiting to start

At last the Chief Umpire announced that we had the all clear and boats could get away. Megan wasted no time before she was on the water and gone, with me in pursuit on the bike.

Isobel still had a list of people she simply had to hug, and it was some twenty minutes later before she crossed the start line in the company of her mother Ruth, who cycled the tow path.

Megan moving up the field

Megan moving up the field

Both women had paddled the course only 12 days before so knew how punishing the first pound is on the bum and legs, and both executed a false portage to ease the discomfort before Wootten Rivers.
Isobel in great company

Isobel in great company

At Honey Street I managed to deter the swan from Megan, but it had a good go at Isobel, who gave it a piece of her mind!

Megan was soon catching some of the early starters including some of her C1 competitors, but there was no news of Samantha Rippington in the high-kneeling C1 who. As race favourite, she presented our biggest threat.

Not a kayak in sight

Not a kayak in sight

Unbelievably, another swan has taken up residence just after Pewsey, and Megan heard the familiar sound behind her, of wings and feet on water as he came in for the attack. She simply turned her head and scowled at him. Respect to Megan, but I felt quite sorry for the poor guy as he slinked away.
Megan ready to sprint

Megan ready to sprint

Soon we hit the serious stuff as the portages were upon us and it’s what Megan and Isobel do well. They just pluck the boat from the water and run.
Isobel coming through

Isobel coming through

Highly experienced kayak paddlers, they have adopted two different single blade paddling styles. Megan prefers a long power stroke whilst Isobel has a much higher cadence.

I followed Megan down to Kintbury and pedalled back up the course to find Isobel who was in fine spirits and going well.

The crews were well supported by their parents and we were very cautious to ensure that only two people supported at any one time.

The best support in town!

The best support in town!

Bank Support - Cornish style!

Bank Support – Cornish style!

It was a long day, and although the head wind never abated, the sun shone.

The C1 category finished thus:

732 Samantha Rippington, Brigidine School – 06:37:54
750 Megan Middleton, Fowey River CC – 06:40:01
723 Isobel Smith, Basingstoke Canal CC – 07:13:33
708 Tom Barnard, Independent – 07:58:28
754 Robert Campbell, Bedford School – 07:35:07

Megan was 2 mins, 7 secs in deficit to Sam with Isobel 32 mins after. Tom and Robert were paddling boats with far superior stability, which is a handicap on the still waters of the canal, but were they to have the last laugh later in the race?

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