The C word

C is for canoe.

The majority of clubs in the UK are called canoe clubs, although some use the name kayak club. All clubs do provide excellent opportunities for canoeists, up to a point. There are learning courses for new-comers and juniors. There are long, leisurely trips, and also prospects for wilderness and camping expeditions. But canoe racing is usually the domain of paddlers who like to opt for something different, and I have enormous respect for those athletes who have mastered the high-kneel paddling technique.

With some many prospects and choices for kayak racing, it is easy to understand why the majority of paddlers engage with that particular aspect of the sport. For those of us who like to race canoes, it is less easy. Yes, there is the Hasler marathon race series, but it is difficult to progress when racing against the quicker kayaks on courses where they are better suited.

In order to address the lack of real racing openings for canoes, I decided to organise a set of time trials throughout the summer, just for canoeists. In September last year, I wrote a proposal and submitted it to the British Canoeing Marathon Racing Committee (MRC). It can be seen at:

Click to access UK_National_Canoe_Time_Trial_series_proposal_V2_1.pdf

After a number of iterations, I got the support of the MRC to pilot some events during 2015, to test a standard race format to establish a national series. I setup a web site to manage this and wrote to all the Hasler race organisers to see which clubs would support a time trial race.

The web site is at:

I’ve got about seven or eight races scheduled, and the first race is at the Worcester Hasler event tomorrow.

Details at:

Click to access Worcester_NCTT_2015.pdf

“Unfortunately” it clashes with several other events on the same day:

• Worcester Hasler
• 1066 Marathon – Maidstone
• BCCC Marathon – Basingstoke
• Malton & Norton – Yorkshire
• Norwich Hasler and K2 Assessment Race

So there may not be many entrants, but it does give me the opportunity to test the organisation.

I bought a couple of radio controlled clocks to set paddlers off at the start and to record their finish times. These are the same clocks used by Newbury Canoe Club for the Waterside Series.

Radio controlled timing clocks - in perfect synchronisation

Radio controlled timing clocks – in perfect synchronisation

As they are radio controlled, they are always synchronised.

I also had some numbers made up. These are to the new MRC specification.

Race numbers

Race numbers

I’ve got a union flag to mark the start, and a chequered flag for the finish. I’ve even knocked up a marker buoy for the top turn.

Looking at the best course for ten miles, I had originally planned to portage the downstream lock at Diglis. I checked it out on Google earth and it looked as straight forward as a Thames Lock. WRONG! There is about a 5 metre drop to the water at the get-out and put-in. I even considered portaging the weir face, but it just looked too dodgy.

So I went up to Worcester last week to recce the upstream portage at Bevere Lock. But it is literally just downstream of the weir face and the river was up. It is a beach (mud) get-out, a fairly long walk through a meadow, and a beach (more mud) put-in.

Having reviewed the GoPro video, and due to the experience with the portage and high water conditions, I decided to err on the side of caution and just use the section between the two locks.

So, the race will run however many paddles turn up.

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