2017 catch-up

Blimey it’s been a while since I added some content to this blog, time to catch up.

So, a summary of the key activities since before DW.

    DW 2017

This was way back on 15th April but even now our failure still rankles. Basically we were four hours in and ten minutes up on our 21 hour schedule, and John decided he could not continue. I don’t think we’ll ever understand why, but “his head wasn’t in it” so we had to retire. Rarely have I experienced such anger, just the sheer frustration of having no control and not being able to do a thing about it.

Before “the wheels came off”

Thinking back, I can’t remember anything we would have done differently in our preparation, training or execution, so there are no lessons to be learnt. I’m looking for a new partner for next year, but not being in a club I don’t know enough paddlers that well. I am hoping for an experienced, slightly younger kayaker to stick in the front.


I supplemented my training for DW with membership to a Gym. This was “The Fitness Experts”. They offer a programme of circuit training for 45 minutes at a time. It is very varied and very hard, which is just what I needed.

I also purchased a sit&switch ergo trainer. It was excellent just to position it in front of the telly and simulate a reasonable paddle stroke. Obviously the guy in the picture isn’t me, I’m far younger and more handsome than that (I wish!). My canoe paddle stroke is nothing like that either, hence the need for a kayak partner.

Canoe ergo trainer

    Cheshire Ring

Meanwhile back in Blighty. A bloke borrowed my Darkness C1 to do an 18 mile race with 19 portages. He did DW in the front of a C2 this year and fancied a go in a C1.

He beat all the K1s in his race, all of which were from higher divisions and got himself promoted two divisions to Div 5.

Paul Stenning on his way to Div 5

Paul Stenning went on to do the Cheshire Ring race in The Darkness C1. The race is 96 miles long non-stop, and has portages over 92 locks and 5 tunnels. The current C1 record is 19 hours 50 minutes and was set in 1998, so it’s about time it was beaten. After paddling through the night, Paul finished in 19 hours 18 minutes, beating the record by over half an hour.

Paul Stenning at the start

A fantastic effort especially for an athlete who has only recently crossed over to the dark side.

    Worcester Ring

Putting the disappointment of DW’17 behind me, I decided to check out the Worcester Ring Canoe Challenge. This is a 21 mile circuit starting and finishing on the River Severn at Worcester (obviously!) on Saturday July 22 nd.

Casually asked my wife if she’d be interested, oh yes she replied. Two minutes later, the Darkness Duet was loaded and we were off for our first training session at Dreadnought Reach. “Do I have to wear all the kit?” “Yes, it’s in the rules……………………my rules”

Ro and Me in the Duet

Ro and I paddled the 21 mile Worcester Ring Challenge which included 29 locks split into 18 portages. This meant that some of the portages were 500 metres and one was 1,000 metres long.

In order to speed up the process, I mounted some wheels on the rear deck. They proved very handy, although some of the locks involved some highly complicated manoeuvres.

Ro had only paddled up to three hours previously and a maximum of 13 miles. We finished in 4 hours 48 minutes, pretty darn tired though.

However, Paul Stenning smashed the Worcester Ring Canoe Challenge C1 record taking a huge 50 minutes off the time set last year in a fantastic time of 3:38. Paul was also a minute quicker than the new C2 record also set yesterday.


I entered the British Canoe National Marathon Championships in The Darkness C1 a couple of months ago, Paul was also in the same race. Unfortunately he fell in soon after the starts but recovered to overtake the whole field except the first two high kneelers, to come in third position.

Me at the Nationals

Unfortunately I was disqualified for going the wrong side of a marker buoy!

Paul is now the proud owner of his own Darkness C1, so we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the future. The C1 class of the 2018 DW is on his list for next year.

Wye descent

I raced The Colin Chapman Memorial Wye Descent (Kerne Bridge To Monmouth) on the river Wye. Forty seven boats on the start line including some top UK paddlers.

After the recent rain, the river was up and had a good flow, but a strong wind negated some of the advantage. It also increased the ferocity of the rapids.

There were three C1s (and seven C2s), Chris Blacker in a high-kneeler, Lyndon White in a Wenonah Advantage, and me in The Darkness. Knowing the start would be somewhat frantic, we hung towards the back.

The first set of rapids saw a surprising number of capsizes. Chris started to open a gap whilst Lyndon and I got into our stride. About half an hour later Chris pulled over with back problems. He eventually reached the finish put wasn’t able to push.

It was pretty uneventful until the notorious Symonds Yat rapids. This has been changed over the years to make it more “interesting” for slalom and play boats, but far more challenging for racing boats. I was doing quite well until about two thirds down and I thought I’d made it. I braced on some aeriated water and tipped over. After a roller coaster swim, I was eventually dragged into an eddy by a C1 (cheers mate).

I knew Lyndon wasn’t far behind so I jumped back in and continued towards the finish. I later discovered he too had capsized, broke his paddle and sustained some nasty gashes.

I won the C1 event and beat the record by 4 seconds, apologies to Chris Hotchkiss!

So not a totally wasted summer.

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