Megan’s paddling past

Megan is based in Cornwall and trains mostly on the River Fowey. Her move into the sport of canoe racing started at an early age.

What are you earliest canoeing memories?

Discovering paddle sport when I was 12 years old saved and made my life. Sounds dramatic but it’s true, during a sad period, paddling gave me the most wonderful friends, memories and experiences I could ever imagine. It has given me the opportunity to feel free and totally be myself out on the open water racing against the elements, as well as a tremendous sense of challenge and achievement.

It’s a sport I love and will never be without. After completing DW for the first time in 2008 (the year of the blizzard) I felt invincible and was instantly addicted. After the race my coach and K2 partner Brian Greenaway said “Now’s the time you say never again” a couple of people instantly said “Never again!” but I knew I’d be back and just smiled and kept quiet.

How did you first get into canoeing?

A friend of mine told me she had been to a few sessions at Fowey River Canoe Club, based in Gollant on the River Fowey, south coast of Cornwall. I had never been in a kayak before let alone seen a wobbly racing boat, but I thought it sounded fun so I went to have a go as well.

The friend didn’t keep it up very long but I went back every week for the rest of the summer, soon competing in my first lightening race (for under 12’s) which I won. I loved the buzz of racing and winning the first sporting medal of my life (other than the primary school sports day skipping race!).

I was in awe at the faster paddlers in the club who were at the time starting off in marathon division 9 (now those people are in the top racing divisions 1 & 2). Over the winter I continued to paddle a little so when the next summer arrived I was ready to race in real divisions and start training properly.

How did you progress?

Fowey River CC had connections with a club in Penzance who specialized in canoe polo and surf kayaking both of which I tried and really enjoyed, but nothing compared to the athletic marathon and sprint.

We joined the people from Penzance in the summer of 2007 for what would be my first long distance paddle. Twelve sea kayaks set off from their club at Penzance harbour and we paddled for 2 days and 68 miles around the coast, camping overnight on a hidden beach near the Lizzard, to finish at Fowey River CC in Gollant.

After this trip I decided I would love to paddle the English Channel, however it didn’t happen because one of the coaches told me that we had been put on the waiting list just so I would stop asking (I waited for a year before learning there was no such list).

What’s it like to paddle on the Fowey?

Fowey River Canoe Club is located on probably one of the most beautiful estuaries to have a racing kayak club in the country.

There are so many different sections and places to explore. Head upstream for narrow bends and fast flow at Lostwithiel or under the bridge in the picturesque village of Lerryn. Paddling downstream takes you to many more creeks, Fowey Harbour and the sea.

All these places provide very varied water conditions for training, we often take our K1’s out to sea or into the harbour for some waves! The estuary is tidal so fast flow is always to be contended with and can get very fun/scary with wind against tide and can get busy with motor and sailing boats in the summer.

……..to be continued.

Meagn - ready to take on DW 2014

Megan – ready to take on DW 2014

A bit about Isobel.

We’ve all got our story of when, why and how we started canoeing as a sport and I was interested to know a bit more about Isobel’s paddling history.

So what got you started in canoeing?

It’s a bit of a weird story, but my Dad and I were walking next to a river and we saw some paddlers doing white water “that looks fun!” we said, and the next thing I knew I was on the water completing a one star canoeing course at Wokingham Waterside Centre!

After that, my sister Naomi and I decided that paddling was something we wanted to continue so we joined Basingstoke canal canoe club. we quickly found that going as fast as possible in narrow boats was our preferred canoe discipline!

Who were your main influencers?

Charles Hicks, Richard Somerset and Brian Gandy were very influential in getting me into paddling and I am eternally grateful for their encouragement.

I still remember the time I paddled Richard into the willow tree! We used to train in the evenings in K2s on the canal and we paddled straight into it because it was dark! The best sessions were when we were paddling back and ice started to form on the boat, our clothes and as a thin layer on the canal, it was just really weird to think it was actually that cold when we had got warm after paddling!

Brian gave me the first technique tips and taught me wash hanging, and helped me enter my first lightning races. I remember when we had just come off the water after Pangbourne Hasler and Brian was discussing the possibility of going up to the Nationals! It was so exciting!

Charles was really encouraging; I remember him running along the towpath in front of us on Waterside B and showing us where to get in at a portage. We also did a paddle to the local pub from his house. Some years later Jason, Mike, Kathryn, Naomi and I were paddling past his house and ran in to get biscuits!

What sort of canoeing have you done?

Well mostly flat water, but with a few deviations into white water and sea kayaking. I went to France with B3C (Basingstoke canal canoe club) on a white water trip, it was really sunny so didn’t matter when we fell in!

I also went on a sea kayaking trip with the club when I was 14 around Old Harrys Rock, which again was really sunny!

Last year, Megan, Giel , Ryan and I went on a sea kayaking trip where we paddled from Fowey to a secluded beach and camped overnight.

What other types of water have you paddled on?

Training on the canal at Basingstoke, also the River Wey and the Thames at Elmbridge. In Denmark I paddled huge, massive lakes during the Tour De Gudena.

You clearly enjoy competition; tell us about some of the most memorable races.

The first race I ever did was the Basingstoke Hasler Race in lightning’s when I was 11. I think I came 4th, but mainly I remember having loads of fun! There is nothing quite like racing on the canal! All the boats around you, clashing paddles and random washes!

I have gained a few national titles, but the one I am most proud of was when I was 16 and Naomi and I ended up winning. It was the best as we were on the podium with our closest paddling friends. Megan and Marthe had second and Kathryn and Becca had third.

The first Junior development trip I went on was the Loire trip when I was 14. It was so exciting because the river got shallow in places so you could run aground!

Then Tour De Geduna is probably the best junior development trip I have been on. It was an amazing place to paddle, the lakes were huge and at the end of the lakes were tiny canals leading into much bigger lakes. It was so alien to anything Naomi and I had ever paddled on so was really fun and exciting! One of the best things about it was Naomi and I were in K2 together- in Tim[Muller] and Fred[Reif]’s k2 in which they had paddled DW so many times! We came third in the junior ladies category which I was pleased with as we had capsized twice!

Another junior development trip I went on was the Gent Marathon, which I was lucky enough to go on three times. I won it the third time, with Naomi coming second behind me.

I have completed three DW’s:

– The first one I was just 16. Naomi and I wanted to do it as a challenge but we didn’t realise how addictive it would be! We paddled to third overall and won the ladies.

– The second DW I hit my head on a low bridge and got concussion! We came second by 40 seconds. It was so exciting to be part of such a close fought race and was a privilege to be that close to Amoret [King] and Amelia [Churnside], who I aspired to be like.

– The third DW was with Megan. We won the ladies again, but I really struggled on the tideway which bought the overall time down.

Which of your results are you most proud?

The main ones are:

– Waterside records, (19 waterside mugs!) [NICK: I am lucky enough to have two.]
– 5 times winner of the ladies waterside series with Naomi
– Won DW twice
– Won the Nationals K2 in under 16, and gained 4 other national titles
– Third in the Tour de Geduna with Naomi
– Won Gent marathon (Another development trip)

Waterside winners commemorative mugs

Waterside winners commemorative mugs

Which canoe clubs have you paddled for?

I paddle for Basingstoke canal canoe club but train at Wey to take advantage of the heated floor!

You’re nineteen, have been competing since you were eleven and have enjoyed considerable success, what are you paddling objectives for the future?

My personal objectives have never changed and they are simply to have fun!

I’m hoping that Isobel will also have fun on the dark side and you can keep up with her progress on her blog at: http://paddlingonthedarkside.wordpress.com/

DW 2014; bring it on!

Isobel and The Darkness

Isobel and The Darkness

Megan Middleton paddles on the dark side.

Megan lives in Cornwall but was visiting Isobel for a few days and I took this opportunity to meet her at Wey Kayak Club for a test paddle. I was now aware that Megan and Isobel knew each other, in fact it was Megan that originally brought the C1 DW opportunity to Isobel’s attention. I still hadn’t realised that they had paddled DW 2013 together in a K2.

Anyway, they both got changed and Isobel decided to accompany Megan on the water in a K1. Now if that had been me and my mate was watching me paddle a C1 for the first time and they had already successfully done the same, I would have felt somewhat under pressure, not so Megan it seemed.

Again we started with kayak blades but before Megan had put the boat on the water she had shouldered it and was asking what was the best grip for running a portage!

Based on previous feedback from Isobel, I has already put the high seat in as I didn’t think stability would be an issue and so it proved as Megan sprinted up and down a few times and then glided in to the side to swap paddles.

Megan showing The Darkness who's boss.

Megan showing The Darkness who’s boss.

Without a moment’s hesitation she launched the boat into the stream and was sitting and switching like a pro. OK not quite that good to start with but with a look of concentration she experimented paddle grip, blade entry and power stroke.

Megan comes over to the dark side

Megan comes over to the dark side

As Isobel was also on the water in a K1, I had the opportunity to see a direct comparison.

Told you it was easy!!

Told you it was easy!!

It’s no wonder that they didn’t have any stability problems, look what they are used to paddling!

Megan C1, Isobel K1

Megan C1, Isobel K1

The production boats were at last ready on Friday 13th December and as Megan had accepted my invitation to paddle C1, I arranged to meet her at Roadford Lake near Launceston in Cornwall the next day where she had entered a race.

Saturday and it was blowing a gale. I’d had a late night drilling the seat fixings, fitting a footrest, buoyancy and affixing the stickers but I left at 11:30 to meet Megan after her race at 14:30. I stopped several times just to check that the boat wasn’t going to blow off and then received a phone call to say that the event had been cancelled due to the high winds and risks to safety.

We agreed to meet anyway and hand over the boat so I arrived at the watersports centre at Roadford lake and no sign of Megan and she was not picking up her mobile. Eventually she appeared having taken the opportunity to join a training paddle on the very lake on which the race event had been cancelled due to safety concerns!

There was no point in trying to put the boat on the water due to fading light and “the dangerous conditions”….ha!

Megan's new boat

Megan’s new boat

So we took a few pictures and put the boat on Megan’s V rack. I noticed that the passenger seat had been reclined almost horizontal to make way for a surf board, “so you surf as well?” I asked, “I live in Cornwall, everyone surfs”.

I went through the same questions I’d asked Isobel about training, nutrition and DW organisation coming away with the opinion that a little more structure may add some value. “So, if you live in Cornwall, when do you get the opportunity to familiarise yourself with the portages?”. “I have actually done the Waterside and the DW a few times”. If I’d have done my research earlier I would have known, Megan: 2 – Nick: 0.

Both boats are now allocated and handed over to two women athletes who have the utmost confidence in their own ability and from what I have seen and what I now know, have an excellent chance of making it to Westminster later this year. Let’s see what happens in the next 104 days.

Welcome to the dark side Isobel Smith

Isobel was one of the respondents to my web forum appeal for lady paddlers for DW 2014.

We arranged to meet at Dreadnought Reach on the Thames at Reading during lunchtime in order that she could see the boat and conduct a test paddle to ascertain if she was comfortable with it.

It was raining so I popped the boat into the Marsport shop (thanks Paul and Craig) and waited for her to arrive which she duly did all changed and ready to paddle, accompanied by her dad, also an accomplished paddler from Basingstoke Canal Canoe Club.

I started to explain the subtle intricacies of the boat and point out some of the fascinating design detail but it was clear from her body language that she just wanted to get onto the water so that’s what we did.

Isobel - burning it up with kayak blades

Isobel – burning it up with kayak blades

Isobel hadn’t paddled on the dark side before so we started off with kayak blades just to get used to the boat. (Did I mention that the boat was a hybrid?) There was no hesitation, no doubt, no ceremony, she just paddled off into the distance. It was the same when we swapped to the single bladed paddle, a seamless transition.

Isobel - is it harder than it looked?

Isobel – is it harder than it looked?

It was a strange feeling watching someone else paddling “my” boat and with such confidence too, she could have at least pretended to have some stability concerns. She even chased after a passing cruiser to get on the wash. At 20 kgs lighter than me (3 stone in “old money”) there is significantly less wetted area.

I waited at the pontoon at the end of the session and watched her approach with a big grin on her face, “that was fun” she said. FUN! It suddenly hit me that I’d become so involved with development, design and manufacture of the boat, I’d completely forgotten the fundamental reason why we paddle in the first place and I was grateful to be reminded.

As I had to go away on business for a few days, I left the boat with her and included an additional high seat. She wasted no time sticking it in thus raising the centre of balance by another 5 cms and found it more comfortable to paddle with.

It was some weeks later that we met again to hand over the new boat after she’d agreed to accept the challenge and come over to the dark side for DW 2014.

Isobel - first time in the new boat (must do soemthing about that hat!)

Isobel – first time in the new boat (must do something about that hat!)

Part of the “deal” is to help me raise the profile of the boat in the lead-up to the event and I’ve started to design some bespoke canoeing clothing complete with Darkside Canoes branding to support photographs and filming.

Isobel's new boat

Isobel’s new boat

To help select garments which a.) the paddlers would wear and b.) would be comfortable to paddle in, I wanted to find out what sort of clothing options she usually choose, in fact I also wanted to know all about Isobel’s approach to canoeing and subjected the poor girl to an “interrogation” about all aspects of coaching, training, bank support, clothing, foot wear, nutrition, recovery, fluid intake, portaging and general race logistics.

After 10 years as a marathon runner and a racing cyclist for the last 15 years, I’ve learnt a huge amount (and made countless mistakes) about sustaining energy levels and comfort over long periods in endurance events and have tested many different approaches and options. I am hoping to bring some of this experience over to our 2014 DW endeavour through a structured feeding plan and to exploit the clothing layering system adopted by cyclists for changing weather conditions, temperatures and increasing fatigue.

In my opinion, competitive cycling has made more progress in the last 10 years in some comparable areas (and I don’t include doping in that!) than canoeing as it is a far bigger sport and I think canoeing could benefit, but much more of this later.

So, Isobel has the boat and 104 days left (according to the DW web site) to develop an efficient sit&switch paddling style.

I say, women paddling C1 in the DW, whatever next!

So without further ado, I’d like to introduce the two women athletes who will be paddling The Darkness racing C1 in the 2014 Waterside series and DW; Isobel Smith and Megan Middleton.

Isobel Smith is a 19 year old canoeist who paddles for Basingstoke Canal Canoe Club (BCCC). She is currently ranked in marathon division 4.

I had often seen Isobel and her sister Naomi on the water in a K2 during the Waterside race series as they came zooming past with their distinctive hair colour, in perfect synchronisation and almost telepathic communication. They have a seeming effortless paddling style and if ever a coach needed to show students an example of perfect double kayaking, this would be it.

Isobel and Naomi Smith

Isobel and Naomi Smith

Clearly with talent like that, results inevitably follow and Isobel holds more current Waterside records than any other competitor:

Waterside A
• K2 Junior Ladies: Smith & Middleton – Fowey/BCCC 2:03:37 2013

Waterside B
• K2 Junior Ladies: Smith & Middleton – Fowey/BCCC 2:35:50 2013

Waterside C
• K2 Junior Ladies: Smith & Smith – Basingstoke Canal 3:34:01 2012

Waterside D
• K2 Ladies: Smith & Smith – Basingstoke Canal 5:03:29 2010
• K2 Junior Ladies: Smith & Smith – Basingstoke Canal 5:36:03 2012

Waterside Series
• K2 Ladies: Smith & Smith Basingstoke Canal 13:19:06 2011
• K2 Junior Ladies: Smith & Smith Basingstoke Canal 13:19:06 2011
• K2 Junior Mixed: Middleton & Pearce 14:32:40 Fowey 2009

Isobel has also completed three junior DW events:

• 2009 18:15:05 Isobel Smith & Naomi Smith 3rd BCCC & All Hallows
• 2010 16:28:58 Isobel Smith & Naomi Smith 4th BCCC & All Hallows
• 2013 18:25:23 Isobel Smith & Megan Middleton 6th BCCC & Fowey River

Winning:

2009:
• The Junior Team Trophy
• The BSCA Junior Trophy
• Third position plaque
• Junior Ladies Trophy

2010:
• The Junior Team Trophy
• The BSCA Junior Trophy

2013:
• The Junior Ladies Trophy

As a junior she was not allowed to paddle a single boat and moving directly from a double kayak to a single canoe for DW will present a considerable challenge, the biggest of which will be the duration on the water, for example an additional 1.5 to 2 hours effort on Waterside D alone.

The second team member is Megan Middleton who is a member of Fowey River Canoe Club in Cornwall. Also 19 years old and ranked in marathon division 5.

Megan and Isobel - DW 2013

Megan and Isobel – DW 2013

I didn’t think I’d seen her paddle before but my wife Rowan and I photographed some of the crews exiting the Bruce Tunnel on the first day of the 2013 DW. I said to Rowan “look, there’s Naomi and Isobel Smith” not realising that Megan was cunningly disguised as Naomi! In fact I didn’t even know that they knew each other until I had independently approached them both as potential C1 paddlers. No one ever tells me anything!

Megan is the current holder of the DW record for a mixed junior crew; in 2010 she completed the course with her paddling partner Michael Southey in 16 hours 24 minutes.

She also holds the following Waterside records:

Waterside A
• K2 Junior Ladies: Smith & Middleton – Fowey/BCCC 2:03:37 2013

Waterside B
• K2 Junior Ladies: Smith & Middleton – Fowey/BCCC 2:35:50 2013

Waterside Series
• K2 Junior Mixed: Middleton & Pearce 14:32:40 Fowey 2009

Megan has completed the DW four times as a junior:

• 2009 18:31:30 Megan Middleton & Ryan Pearce 5 Fowey River
• 2010 16:24:08 Megan Middleton & Michael Southey 2 Fowey River
• 2012 18:38:04 Megan Middleton & Dan Palmer 3 Fowey River
• 2013 18:25:23 Megan Middleton & Isobel Smith 6 BCCC & Fowey River

Winning:

2009:
• The Oliver Brown Trophy

2010:
• The Oliver Brown Trophy
• The Trans-Class Team Trophy
• Second position plaque

2012:
• The Oliver Brown Trophy,
• Third position plaque

2013:
• The Junior Ladies Trophy

Megan will also migrate to a single C1 for Waterside and DW 2014 and be in competition with Isobel rather than in the same kayak, what fun!

The next time these two women are in a similar picture frame as below, they will have completed the 2014 DW in a C1.

Megan and Isobel - DW 2013 © Copyright - Olly Harding

Megan and Isobel – DW 2013 © Copyright – Olly Harding

Wanted – two lady C1 paddlers for 2014 DW

So I’ve spent all this time developing, testing and manufacturing the sit&switch racing C1 of my dreams clearly I wanted to be the first to mark up some sort of competitive achievement in the boat. With Easter being later in the year and high tide at Teddington scheduled for 07:35 hrs (reasonable!) on day four, the 2014 DW was an obvious target especially as I still have unfinished business following my failure to negotiate the tideway in 2012.

But what I really need is a milestone, some “badge of honour” to pin on the boat to give it credibility. Another male paddler DW finish doesn’t stand out. Reluctantly I decided to forgo my own ambitions and try to recruit a female paddler or two to become the first women to complete the Waterside series and the DW in a C1, The Darkness.

I put out a wanted request on a couple of canoe web forums to see who might be interested. I was staggered by the quality of female athletes who responded, some outstanding paddlers all with a list of impressive credentials and achievements. I would have liked for them all to paddle my boat but I could only self-fund two canoes.

They all proved that they could have risen to the challenge but I had to make a business decision based on giving the boat the best chance of making it to Westminster and to manage the logistics of locality to enable the creation of multi-media PR and marketing material. Photographs and video are two of the best media for promoting a tactile object like a canoe and I need paddling footage.

The two canoeists had to be comfortable in the boat and confident with the stability and the C1 sit&switch paddling technique. As there are so few women C1 sit&switch paddlers it could be either C2 paddlers or kayak paddlers willing to come over to the dark side.

Canoe paddlers are already familiar with sit&switch and the need to anticipate steering strokes rather than react to the direction of the boat, as they are used to paddling without the aid of a rudder. However, traditional canoes tend to be quite wide and very stable, unlike The Darkness.

Flat water racing kayakers sit the knife-edge of very slim and unstable crafts rated at 1 or 2 on the stability scale, but they can depend on a rudder to maintain their intended direction and they have a paddle blade at each end of the shaft. They could easily cope with the 4 to 5 stability of The Darkness but they would have to learn sit&switch and how to steer a canoe. Concentration, reading the water early and complete empathy with the boat are essential to get the best out of a canoe and that only comes experience and experience is spawned from practice.

It is important that anyone contemplating this challenge has enough time on the water between now and Easter to become familiar with canoeing, so my two boats are already allocated and I hope that the weather allows time for practice.

Another key requirement is DW experience. Being able to paddle the boat is one thing but you still need to know what the DW is all about and it would be unreasonable to expect someone to compete in their first DW in an unfamiliar vessel.

You need to know the portages, the approaches to the locks, avoiding the weirs, where to get out and where to get back in again. Which portages to run, which ones to shoulder the boat and which are best to just use the cockpit. You should know what to expect from your bank support, where they will meet you and where you are on your own. The importance of feeding and fluid intake over a prolonged period.

You need to know what it feels like after five hours paddling knowing you still have two to do and then to do it again on day two and again on day three, in all weathers. You have to get used to being one of the slowest boats on the water and not one of the fastest. You should be ready to cope with the Henley straight with two foot waves and the wide expanse of water downstream of Hammersmith bridge where the banks are a long way away.

We all had to do it the first time but for most of us it was with a mate in a K2. In a C1 you are “billy no-mates” and you have to pull yourself through the low patches by yourself. You have to know about coping with suffering because there is no doubt that you will.

Add to all this, a positive attitude, confidence in your own ability, enthusiasm, fortitude and no qualms about being in a different type of boat.

No female paddler has yet conquered the DW in a C1 and I’m asking a lot of the two women in my boat, but I’m confident that they will be climbing the steps at Westminster bridge on Easter Monday 2014 as they have done on a number of occasions before.

Westminster bridge 2013

Westminster bridge 2013

DW 2014 – bring it on!

The DW 2014 is the first opportunity to test the boat under real marathon race conditions. DW is considered to be the hardest canoe race in the world. It is not the longest but it is certainly one of the most arduous and dangerous.

125 miles from Devizes to Westminster Bridge along the Kennet and Avon Canal to Reading where it meets the river Thames and onwards to London. 77 portages around locks and weirs where paddlers pick the boat from the water and run with it to the embarkation point.

One particular portage at Croftons poses a dilemma. A number of locks are so close together some competitors feel it is quicker to run the entire mile and a half rather than paddle the short canal sections between. Again this depends on the weather especially the strength and direction of the wind.

The unpredictable vagaries of the British weather makes the Easter date for the race a complete lottery which is why comparing the finish times between two different years is not a true reflection of performance. The annuals of DW folklore is littered with stories of frozen canals, thick fog, strong winds, driving rain, ice and sub-zero temperatures and even snow to a warm, balmy day.

The second major factor is the water conditions. Clearly the volume of recent rain fall has a determining impact on the water level in the Kenneth and Avon canal and the speed of flow on the river Thames and this has a huge influence on race times.

Some years after a particularly dry Spring, the flow on the Thames is glacially slow affording very little assistance to the paddler. The water is low which increases the height of the banks at the portages making it slower and more arduous getting in and out of the boat.

Other years after sustained rainfall the speed of flow increases and so does the volume of water going over the weirs on the Thames causing challenging currents and rapids. It is a foolhardy paddler who has failed to familiarise themselves with the weirs and risks the wrong approach to the portage on the wrong side of the river.

The weir at Marlow

The weir at Marlow


No one has died on the race (yet) but some paddlers have lost their lives during training and a number of boats have gone over the weirs, chewed up and spat out downstream. Only once has the race been abandoned after it had started, the year in which the record was beaten. Unfortunately the time didn’t count.

Boulters weir

Boulters weir


The last seventeen miles is on the tidal section of the Thames, “the tideway”. The journey on this part of the race all depends on the time of day as this determines the amount of river traffic. No one is permitted to paddle the tideway on an incoming tide, but the speed of flow does change as the tide flows out from high water.

Large boats on the tideway cause a big wash from the bow which can swamp a kayak or canoe and even cause it to capsize. Even when safely over the main wash, the waves are refracted from the vertical sides of the river, meet other waves and create very choppy water. If you are unfortunate to capsize, it is sometimes a long swim with the boat to the side and a convenient place to empty is hard to find.

So, the boat will have to cope with a variety of conditions and demands from the paddler.

Clearly the light weight of the boat will be a bonus on portages. The low profile will reduce wind resistance and also enable the paddler to negotiate some of the very low foot bridges over the canal. The open cockpit makes getting in and out quick and easy.

The sleek, slim hull with zero rocker should make the boat fast and the gunwales and spray decks should cope with choppy water conditions.

Ideally we need sustained rainfall until a week before Good Friday. Then warm winds to dry the muddy banks at the portages. After that, four days of overcast mild weather with a slight tail wind and then for the Thames “boaties” to have a long lie-in on Easter Monday. I think this is all quite reasonable!

That only leaves one last “minor” consideration………the paddler.