This time last year, John Hayden and I were coming to terms with The Darkness Duet in preparation for the Devizes to Westminster canoe race. It was all very new as John had never raced a canoe and I had very little C2 experience. This was coupled with the fact that we were paddling the very first Duet to come out of the mold.
Over the weeks leading to DW we made a lot of changes to the boat and gradually developed a paddling style which suited a kayaker in the front, and a C1 paddler in the back. We paddled the whole course including some night paddles, and sorted out our kit and a strategy for the race.
We both needed a fourth straight-though finish to qualify for the 1,000 mile club and this was our primary motivation. I also wanted to race test a boat which was essentially designed for DW.
Anyway, we paddled and finished in 12th position in a time of 21 hours 20 minutes. We “won” the trophy for “for the crew of the greatest total age who complete the course” 121 years.
For the rest of the year, I used the DW training as a spring-board for a C1 season and paddled a number of selection races.
Considering the state John was in when we eventually disembarked at Westminster Bridge, I was very surprised when he said he was up for another go in 2017, such is the pull of the DW.
So, here we are in the last few days of 2016 back in the boat and training for Easter 2017. This time though, we’ve gone through the learning curve, the boat is how we want it and we have all our kit and food strategy tried and tested. We’ve also added a couple of digits to the crew’s total age so we may hang on to the trophy if we finish.
The water in both canal and Thames is very much lower than last year, but our comparable times for some of the training runs are encouraging. Even more so is that the boat is running so well.
We take delivery of a new Duet this week. We’ve made this one a bit lighter, but sacrificed a bit on robustness. We hope to race it in the Frank Luzmore event on the 8th January.