Day three started at Longridge Activity Centre at Marlow and I was at the start before Isobel and Megan. I fitted the light weight spray decks in front of, and behind the paddlers as we expected rain today. I also covered the seats with fresh plastic bags and taped some energy gels to the gunwales, as we would not see the girls very often due to fewer portages.
The third day is Isobel’s favourite, and she set off with a smile on her face which didn’t diminish all day.
Megan was later starting, and I left with my trusty driver (and wife!) Rowan to get to the first portage at Cookham, after nearly five miles.
I haven’t Bank Supported before, so we’d spent the previous evening carefully planning the access points, with a view to using car and bike in combination. In my haste I lost track of time and as soon as we got to the car park, I jumped on my bike and zoomed off towards the river. It was a very (unnecessary) convoluting route to the lock and those who were there before me, assured me that the girls had not gone through yet.
And so I started to wait (and worry), wishing once again that I smoked! To pass the time, I walked up-stream as far as I could and watched the boats approach. I even wished Liz Murnaghan and her junior partner Max a “Happy Easter”.
Isobel and Megan were in good spirits as they portaged the lock in their usual effortless style and set off down to Boulters.
Knowing that Bray and Boveney were out-of-bounds, we drove to Romney, parked in the station car park and cycled down to the lock where there were “hundreds” of supporters, and a friendly lock keeper who told me he was known as the “Rottweiler”.
The paddlers portage path was designated on one side of the lock and the supporters were restricted to the other side. This meant that you had to time your support with care otherwise you would be on the wrong side at the get-out or put-in if the locks gates were open.
Eventually Isobel turned up, deep in conversation with a K1 paddler.
The portage was faultless and I phoned Ruth to report progress. Megan’s parents turned up, so I didn’t wait before we set off for Bell.
We parked on a large grass car park next to the river. The weather broke and the rain fell, accompanied with thunder and lightning………..great!
I rode up-stream, found Isobel and shouted some encouragements.
I’m never too sure if paddlers do find it encouraging hearing from their support. I had a very limited repertoire of things to say:
“Keep it going” – Well I’m hardly likely to stop.
“You’re doing well” – Based on what?
“You’re looking good” – Have you seen my hair?
“Go, go, go” – As opposed to stop, stop, stop?
“How do you feel?” – Is this a serious question?
“Do you need anything?” – Apart from a G&T, my bed, a rest and a tail wind, no not really.
And my favourite….”keep paddling”!
Soon afterwards, Megan appeared out of the gloom.
Leaving the other support teams to go to Penton Hook and Chertsey, we headed off to Shepperton and watched both Isobel and Megan make up several places in the length of a lock.
The last place we saw the girls was just before Molesey, where Isobel took on food, but Megan decided to carry on trying to catch Isobel. But Isobel was “on fire”, it was her favourite day and she had eaten well. Megan started to tire on the last section and wasn’t able to close the gap.
We waited in the increasing rain at Thames Young Mariners for them to finish to rapturous applause.
At the end of the third day, the C1 class times were:
750 Megan Middleton, Fowey River CC – 19:53:47
732 Samantha Rippington, Brigidine School – 21:15:50
723 Isobel Smith, Basingstoke Canal CC – 21:45:20
708 Tom Barnard, Independent – 23:01:29
754 Robert Campbell, Bedford School – 23:16:06
Megan has extended her lead to 1 hour 22 minutes, a comfortable cushion for day 4. Isobel had pulled back all the time she had lost yesterday and closed the gap to just under 30 minutes, surely too much to recoup from the 17 mile tideway?