I’ve been planning to do this race for a couple of years, but have been put off by the weather and the lack of available bank support.
This year however, I’m much fitter and the weather for November 30th was incredible. Clear blue skies, 10 degrees and a light wind.
So, twenty miles, (ten miles there and back) and twelve portages, a proper marathon.
Once again I was destined to wear a buoyancy aid because I’m a Div 7 canoe paddler. As I’m also a Div 6 kayak paddler, I could have got away with it. The Hasler rankings are based on performance, not capability or experience so it is the wrong application of the rule. Anyway…….
I was about 10th in line at the start and soon got into a rhythm. Just after a mile was the first portage and I overtook two K1s and a K2 on the run. With an eight kilogram boat and an easy-access cockpit, it set the tone for the race.
I had nice clear water all the way to the turn, but that certainly changed when I met the other paddlers coming towards me. The chop from the vertical sides of the canal was quite rough, and even worse under the motorway bridges which hindered my progress as I coped with the wash.
I made the turn at one hour fifty minutes, so ten minutes up on my target time of four hours. The head wind on the return leg, plus the water turbulence and a few narrow boats which got in the way, all took their toll and I finished at three hours forty six minutes and 45 seconds, 28th out of 40 boats, of which 38 were kayaks.
Banbury Canoe Club produced an excellent set of results, including split times. I now know that I averaged 5.58 mph on the outward leg, and 5.1 mph on the return. The times show that everyone was affected by the return conditions.
The only other full distance C1 was a high kneeler paddled by Team GB, Div 4 K1 and Div 5 C1 athlete Roger Weir. As a member of Banbury canoe club, he must know the course well, but he only beat me by 17 minutes 49 seconds over the 20 miles course, so not bad.
I was annoyed that fast boats coming up behind rarely let you know which side they were passing. It is so much better if they simply call out as they approach, and I can move over. So, please take heed, just shout and I’ll shift.