On Saturday 23rd August, I thought I’d enter the C1 class in the National Marathon event hosted by Worcester CC. I did it back in 2011 in an early version of The Darkness and got my but kicked, coming last out of the six competitors.
To say that the canoe part of our sport is unrepresented is putting it mildly. Even so it seems to be simply given the minimum of lip service.
Saturday’s event consisted of thirty two K1 classes and just two C1 classes, one for senior men and one for junior men. Kayak paddlers are classed by gender, age and ability to ensure a reasonably level playing field and a completive race. There is no such segregation for canoeists as rank beginner’s race against experienced, top class paddlers. Female canoeists don’t even have an event.
552 paddlers started in the K1 classes, whereas there were 9 canoeists consisting of 5 senior men, 1 senior lady and 3 junior men.
Saturday’s classes were:
Div 7 – 17 starters
Div 8 – 12 starters
Div 9 – 11 starters
Under 12 male – 22 starters
Under 12 female – 18 starters
Under 10 male – 19 starters
Under 10 female – 10 starters
Senior men K1 – 20 starters
Senior ladies K1 – 8 starters
SENIOR MEN C1 – 6 starters (including one lady)
Under 23 senior men K1 – 29 starters
Under 23 senior ladies K1 – 7 starters
Under 18 junior men K1 – 22 starters
Under 18 junior ladies K1 – 15 starters
UNDER 18 JUNIOR MEN C1 – 3 starters
Under 16 junior men K1 – 60 starters
Under 16 junior ladies K1 – 20 starters
Under 14 junior men K1 – 41 starters
Under 14 junior ladies K1 – 22 starters
Under 12 junior men K1 – 11 starters
Under 12 junior ladies K1 – 7 starters
Over 34 veteran men K1 – 13 starters
Over 34 veteran ladies K1 – 4 starters
Over 39 veteran men K1 – 15 starters
Over 39 veteran ladies K1 – 8 starters
Over 44 veteran men K1 – 30 starters
Over 44 veteran ladies K1 – 8 starters
Over 49 veteran men K1 – 35 starters
Over 49 veteran ladies K1 – 9 starters
Over 54 veteran men K1 – 21 starters
Over 54 veteran ladies K1 – 3 starters
Over 59 veteran men K1 – 11 starters
Over 59 veteran ladies K1 – 5 starters
Over 64 veteran men K1 – 10 starters
On Sunday, 242 K2s started in 23 classes. There was even a mixed class. A single C2 was raced by two junior paddlers from Richmond.
This is a poor state of affairs and as such, there are no Team GB canoeists for the forthcoming 2014 World Marathon Championships in Oklahoma next month. Something surely has to be done.
Anyway, the senior men’s C1 event was the third race to start, just behind the under 16 men and ladies races. This seemed an unusual arrangement as canoes are considered to be slower than kayaks and are usually placed towards the back to avoid impeding the kayak classes. So it proved as we were overwhelmed by kayakers during the whole race.
Six boats lined up. Four high-kneeling C1s paddled by Nerijus Budrikis from Worcester, Marcin Ponomarenkow from Richmond, Roger Weir from Banbury and Ross Pearton. A fifth high kneeler was paddled by Sarah Millest from Nottingham for whom I have enormous respect.
With no ladies C1 event, Sarah was forced to paddle with the men. A Div 9 paddler in a borrowed boat stood no chance against the likes of Nerijus, Marcin and Roger, all big, young, powerful blokes, built like “well constructed out-houses”, the sort one avoids in dark alleys. However she was on the start line.
Both in our late 50’s Ross and I also had little competitive race prospects.
The under 16 men’s race had to be re-started twice due to false starts, and with 60 boats on the line, the water still hadn’t calmed down by the time we set off and my goodness it was rough from all the refracted waves. This allowed me to pull away from Ross and Sarah as they struggled to remain upright and continue moving forward, but Nerijus, Marcin and Roger simply powered away.
As we paddled up stream on the first lap, the heavens opened and we got soaked, though it wasn’t cold. I was passed by kayaks from later starting races throughout the event and had to cope with the washes and occasional bumps. One lady kayaker was kind enough to comment on my shirt, though I wasn’t able to get her phone number!
I lost time at the turns trying to manoeuvre a boat with zero rocker but I guess that’s the same for all canoes.
The downstream leg was uneventful except for the very bumpy water towards the bottom turn.
On the second lap we had to portage. A beach type portage with no risk of rudder damage in a C1! Then it was a second visit to the top turn before finishing downstream opposite the club house. I came in fourth, but at least twenty minutes after the winner.
The finish order was:
1. Nerijus Budrikis – WOR, Div 4
2. Marcin Ponomarenkow – RIC, Div 4
3. Roger Weir – BAN . Div 4
4. Nick Adnitt – IND, Div 7
5. Ross Pearton – IND, Div 7
6. Sarah Millest – NOT, Div 9
An objective observer may ask “if you stood no chance of winning, what’s the point”? But I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
It was a very well organised event, well done Worcester CC, except for the finishing point which for some reason failed to produce a set of results before we all went home.
So, a good time, and if I ever see Sarah Millest in a pub, I’m going to buy her a pint.