Tag Archives: DW

On the water at last

Ok, so it was actually Friday before we took the boat out for its maiden voyage as it took some time to configure all the fittings. I got everything done except the name stickers.

Initial fixtures and fittings

Initial fixtures and fittings

I managed to get a couple of Zastera racing kayak seats from a guy who found them too uncomfortable (must have a funny shaped bum!). I mounted these on some plywood platforms bolted to the seat support flanges. Had no idea if they were the right height but it seems fine when we’re paddling. Trouble is, the plywood is too thin and it bounces like a trampoline. I’ll stiffen these with aluminium bracing.

I used some aluminium square profile rods for the footrests and covered these with grip tape. They’re not great because the sole of your foot is in contact with the corner edge of the bar, rather than the flat. However, it worked ok for the maiden voyage.

First footrests

First footrests

I fitted the thwarts, grip tape, oh and the all-important racing number holder (just in case).

My wife had my big car for the weekend, so I borrowed my daughter’s Clio to transport it to Kintbury where we were going to introduce it to the Kennet and Avon canal.

Bit of an overhang!

Bit of an overhang!

My “partner-in-crime” for the Devizes to Westminster canoe race next Easter is John Hayden. John has completed the DW thirteen times, plus four non-finishes (including 2000 when the race was cancelled). He did the junior DW in 1967 and 68 and then senior K2 in 76 (3rd), 77 (6th) and 78 (2nd). He paddled K1 in 89, 94, 95, 96, 97, 99, 2003 and 2005. His best time is 17:23. BUT, he still needs one more straight-through to qualify for the DW 1,000 mile club.

So, we unloaded the boat and sat it on the bank.

All set and ready to go

All set and ready to go

I can remember the poignant moment when I first paddled The Darkness C1. It had taken a lot of effort to eventually get the boat I’d wanted for so long, and it was with some trepidation that I first stepped into it. I didn’t have a proper seat and it felt quite strange. It was some time before I knew I had a winner.

No such ceremony with the C2, John just picked it up and put it on the water. Before I had any time for reflection or quiet contemplation, we pushed off from the bank.

I knew within the first ten strokes that the boat was everything I’d hoped for. After developing (and learning from) the C1, I almost expected it to be good, but it was a relief and a surprise, just how good it is.

For a start it is stable. Not rock solid like a tub, but far more stable than a K2. Too stable would be too slow, but I have no worries about the tideway.

The seat height is comfortable and easy to get up from (we’re old remember!). The thwarts help too. The portage handles really help with the portages (obviously!) as does the front and rear decks to take the weight on the shoulder.

It handles exceptionally well on the water. Easy to keep it straight, but responsive to turning. Paddle access to the water is good, but not as good as the C1 due to the additional width. In fact I need to pad out the gunwales at the front as John bashed his hands a couple of times. However, he is a kayaker and this was only his second time in a C2.

His first time was when we paddled a concept boat I’d made from an old K2. I was worried that this boat would handle in a similar way in that when the K2/C2 started the veer, it was hard to bring it back on track. It just shows that you can’t just take any old boat, add some extra moulding and expect it to perform in a predictable fashion.

But the best thing was the speed, wow does it shift. I need to do some timing against the C1 to be sure how quick it is as this is the only measure I have. I also want to get some experienced Wenonah ICF paddlers to have a go too.

Anyway, I modified the footrests and we took it out again.

Modified footrests

Modified footrests

I got a couple of poor quality pictures which shows that it is a bit too high in the bow. I’m 75 kgs and John is 82, but I still need to move his position forward by about four inches to trim the boat.
On the water

On the water

And we’ve gotta do something about that hat!
Bow slightly high

Bow slightly high

So, we’ve got about three months before the start of the DW to work on fitness and paddle efficiency.

Double Darkness or Darkness squared?

So, The Darkness sit&switch single racing C1 hybrid canoe is finished. I am entirely satisfied with it and would change nothing. It was tried and tested on the 2014 Devizes to Westminster canoe race carrying the first female competitor to victory. An increasing number of people are trying it out and deciding to purchase it.

I wonder what a double version would be like? Is it simply an elongated version of the single, or do the demands of two paddlers require a complete redesign? I suspect it is somewhere in the middle.

The Darkness was designed in CAD, so all the hard stuff in terms of dimensions and shape are done. But before I commission a new CAD design, there are a number of fundamentals which I need to clarify.

The first is, where is the best place to position the two paddlers?

Conventional wisdom and tradition dictates that the paddlers in a racing C2 should be as far away from each other as possible at each end of the boat. The front paddler is limited by their leg length and the decreasing width in which to place their feet. The rear paddler is also limited by decreasing width in relation to their hip width. (I’m being polite here!)

Traditional racing C2

Traditional racing C2

This makes sense in that it leaves a large space in the centre to store equipment for wilderness canoeing, plus it makes the boat easier to steer. However, why isn’t this concept extended to double racing kayaks?
Racing K2

Racing K2

Kayak paddlers tend to sit closer together within the most buoyant part of the boat and power is delivered from the centre. They do however, have a rudder to aid steering.

The same appears to be prevalent in high-kneeling racing C2s where the paddlers are even closer together and they don’t have a rudder.

High kneeling sprint C2

High kneeling sprint C2

In a slalom C2 the paddlers are closer still as they are kneeling rather than sitting. Surely this makes it harder to steer? No, because this is compensated for by a substantial rocker along the keel line of the boat.
Slalom C2

Slalom C2

I am tending towards a compromise. Position the paddlers closer than a traditional C2 but not as close a K2. This should ensure than the weight is close to the centre where the boat is the most buoyant. A small amount of rocker perhaps towards the stern should be enough to help with steering, but still ensure directional stability.

It would be nice to have something ready for DW 2015.

DW 2014 fashion. What the best dressed paddler is wearing.

Getting clothing right for DW is a challenge mostly due to the unpredictability of the British weather. This isn’t helped due to Easter not being at the same time each year. As such, the intrepid paddler and their faithful Bank Support crew need to be prepared for every eventuality and adapt in real-time if and when the situation changes to ensure the canoeist doesn’t get too hot, cold or wet and is able to remain comfortable and competitive.

Often the day starts out cold, possibility frosty with an annoying little breeze which chills the fingers. Then paddlers get warmed up, the sun makes a welcome appearance, the breeze drops and it can almost be a pleasant Spring day. Later the clouds may build and we are treated to a rain shower, a little sleet and possibly some hail just to finish it off. As the late afternoon moves into the evening, the temperature starts to drop.

If a paddler gets too warm, they need more fluid, too cold and they burn calories trying to keep warm, too wet and they can become uncomfortable, miserable and cold (and cross!).

So how can a clothing system be defined which will cope with all these demands? A layer approach is clearly the best solution. This has been popular in most adventure sports for some years and there are some amazing “integrated layer systems” which work really well but are jolly expensive.

But the principles are straight forward allowing the athlete to choose the type of garments which are appropriate, affordable, comfortable and don’t make their bum look big!

As a racing cyclist I’ve amassed more outfits than Cindy over the years and cyclist have a huge wardrobe to choose from for every type of racing, weather, terrain and conditions. The big pockets on the back of cycling jerseys bulge with arm warmers, leg warmers, knee warmers, gilet, wind proof top, waterproof top, gloves, over-shoes and ear-hole warmers and a mobile phone (to beg for collection if it becomes too nasty!).

M.A.M.I.L. in action!

M.A.M.I.L. in action!

As a fully signed-up member of M.A.M.I.L. (middle aged men in lycra) I can personally vouch for the versatility of the fabric and I use similar garments whilst canoeing.

For this DW and Waterside, I have designed a number of clothing items based on typical cycling attire into what I hope will be an affective layer solution for Megan and Isobel.

Base Layer

As this is next to one’s skin it is very much a personal choice. However, it needs to be close fitting and have good wicking qualities to promote removal of sweat away from the skin to the outside of the garment where it evaporates quickly. I’ve started using compression tops which squeeze the torso in specific places to aid blood circulation around the muscles. It is also very good at flattening ones tummy!

Mid Layer

This helps trap a layer of warm air within the base layer and I have defined an option for warm weather and one for the cold. The warm option is a short sleeve lycra cycle top made by a German company; owayo custom sports. They are close fitting with a three quarter zipped front.

Darkside short sleeve top

Darkside short sleeve top

The pockets in the back are for fluid and emergency rations.

The cold weather option is a long sleeve lycra top but with a fleecy lining.

Darkside long sleeve top

Darkside long sleeve top

This also has some big pockets at the back. It can go over the short sleeve top if necessary.

Top Layer

The top layer is the weather proof one, something to keep out the wind and rain or both.

These wind jackets have a full length zip which enables them to be put on or taken off very quickly and will also go over a buoyancy aid.

Darkside wind jackets

Darkside wind jackets

They do have a small zipped pocket.

The option for rain at the moment is a gilet. As a sleeveless garment it should not impede paddling too much and should keep the majority of the rain out. I did suggest an umbrella but surprisingly this was not enthusiastically supported.


Let’s not forget the legs and I’ve opted for winter paddle leggings from Flatwater Essentials. Close fitting, comfortable and very warm.

Darkside leggings

Darkside leggings


I’m leaving this up to Isobel and Megan but I see the need for a peaked cap if it’s sunny, fleecy warm hat for the cold and wet, and perhaps an ear warmer for in-between. However I do put my foot down on any hat which has kayak branding!


Seventy seven portages across the four days, ranging from a short dash around a canal lock to the long run at Croftons. The mud at Fobney, the bridge run at Marsh and slippy rollers at Sunbury, Molesey and Teddington to name but a few. Ideally shoes equivalent to the multi functionality of a Swiss army knife are required.

The Darkness footrest

The Darkness footrest

The choice for kayak paddlers is somewhat restricted as they have to get their feet under the deck and need to be able to feel the tiller bar (except the rear K2 paddler of course). A lot of racers opt for bare feet so they can really emphasise with the boat through the footrest. This is fine but you do get cold feet and risk injury on the portages.

A canoe has an open cockpit so feet size is not really an issue.

In my opinion the ideal compromise is the minimal running shoes which are quite popular at the moment. I don’t mean the ones with the individual toes, but the shoes with very little cushioning and support, with a good grip sole and a mesh upper. Trouble is they are so expensive.

So, in summary we have a top-to-toe clothing strategy using lessons learnt from competitive cycling. Let’s see how it works in “the field”.

“Dining out” on DW days two and three

During a training paddle from Pewsey Wharf to Wotton Rivers and back yesterday, I just mentioned to my mate (an 11 times DW finisher) about a DW feeding plan and he gave me his copy of “The complete Guide to Sports Nutrition – 6th edition” by Anita Bean. Seems like she’s rather good at this at this endurance sport lark (http://www.anitabean.co.uk/).

Anyway, the style of the book is really good in terms of readability and it pretty much supports my earlier post about a DW feeding strategy.

The most surprising revelation is how much calorie intake is needed for the effort expended during the race and I’d be surprised if anyone has been able to meet their required needs mostly due to logistics. So it may be worth putting on a bit of fat before the race because you’re likely to need it.

There’s probably a reason why sports nutrition product manufactures use grams to measure carbohydrate values and sports nutritionists use calories, but 80 grams of carbohydrate is equivalent to about 320 calories.

Ms Bean declares that the basic metabolic rate (BMR) for a man is weight-in-kg multiplied by 24, and for the women the multiplier is 22. So for me it’s:

75 kgs x 24 = 1,800 calories/day

That’s just to maintain basic life support systems. You then apply a physical-activity-level (PAL) which is a value from 1.2 (fairly inactive) to 1.7 (exercise hard daily). Paddling is hard so I’ll use 1.7.

So my daily calorie need for racing is:

1,800 calories x 1.7 = 3,060 calories/day

The age of the paddler also has to be factored in as one’s BMR drops about 2% every decade so at 55, I’ll take that to mean:

5.5 (decades) x 2% = 11%. 11% of 3,060 = 337. 3,060 – 337 = 2,723 calories/day.

I’m going to take the ”day” as a seven hour paddling duration, so I’ll need 2,723 ÷ 7 = 389 calories/hour which equals about 93 grams of carbohydrates/hours. This is slightly higher than the original calculation using grams of carbohydrates but I did condense the whole day into seven hours.

This supports my energy need estimation although Megan and Isobel are significantly younger than me and probably burn fuel faster than a furnace.

This still leaves the issue of actually getting the food inside the paddlers, which brings me back to the portage analysis for days two and three.

So, looking at day two, Newbury to Longridge:

Feeding opportunities - day 2

Feeding opportunities – day 2

There are clearly some big gaps when the paddlers should be taking on fuel but the Bank Support can’t get to them. This means that the paddlers have to take responsibility for making sure they eat and we all know how reliable they are at doing that!!

It’s not quite as bad on day three Longridge to Teddington:

Feeding opportunities - day 3

Feeding opportunities – day 3

But that grim pound from Mosley to Teddington clearly stands out as issue. It seems to go on for ever and on an empty “tank”, it’ll seem even longer!

We will have to devise a system to make it easy for the paddler to quickly and easily grab a bite to eat during a paddling stretch.

Feeding and fluid replenishment strategy

In order to ensure an adequate amount of energy over the four race days it is important that the paddler consumes enough calories of the right foodstuffs for sustenance over the period. Easy enough, just keeping eating (and drinking)!

It may be just as simple as that and many athletes have successfully completed the race without any thought of a structured feeding plan and just used common sense, experience (not always) and perhaps a bit of luck. There’s nothing wrong with this and if it works for you then great. But I’ve read a number of blogs and talked to paddlers where DW competitors have suffered from not eating the right things often enough and some of this is the result of a casual, hit-and-miss approach to feeding.

One way to ensure that paddlers consume enough food to provide the calories necessary for fuel and energy is to make a simple plan of what they should be taking on, when and where. A written plan would be invaluable to inexperienced Bank Support teams who are often recruited at short notice prior to the race. They are full of enthusiasm and keen to help but need to be instructed on what to do and how to behave. They would be far more effective if they had clear and concise directions on which food to have ready and to ensure that the paddlers had at least the minimum when they meet at each portage.

This is especially important on the senior race. In the wee small hours of the morning, paddlers are sometimes reluctant and can refuse point-blank to eat. The feeding plan can be used as a “weapon” to force the paddlers to eat as they will have “signed-up to it”. If that fails, then direct violence is the only option!

If paddlers run out of fuel then they are in trouble and it’s hard to recover from that type of situation. Most endurance athletes will have experienced “hitting the wall” or “bonking” as we call it in the cycle sport world. (titter yeah not!) It’s a weird feeling, you are convinced that you’re putting in the effort but you don’t seem to making any progress.

“The simple explanation for its occurrence is that long-endurance exercise depletes the body’s store of glycogen, which produces the energy required to maintain performance. When the glycogen depletes entirely, the body has no more fuel and instead burns fat, resulting in a surge of fatigue and a performance collapse.” Source: Bikeradar.com

According to the Science in Sport (SiS) web site, a cyclist needs 60-80 grams of carbs with 500-1000ml liquid per hour as cycling is prone to sweating. I would suggest that canoeing is a harder effort than cycling (unless going uphill) because there is no opportunity to free-wheel so I’ll use the 80 grams upper threshold.

In April we are not likely to be sweating much (although that is not guaranteed), so it’s a case of taking on enough fluid to maintain hydration but not too much that you require the loo too often. This balance can only be determined through experience as we all sweat differently and we hope to use the Waterside series to set a benchmark, but I’ll use 500 ml as a guide.

Carbohydrate is the best source of energy for endurance events and a guideline as to the amount of carbs delivered by certain food products is:

• A 65g SiS GO Energy Bar contains about 40 grams of carbohydrate.
• A 50g Sachet of SiS GO Energy delivers about 36 grams of carbohydrate per 500 ml serving.
• A SiS GO Isotonic Gel contains about 20 grams of carbohydrate.
• 36g of Jelly Babies (about 6 pieces) contains about 28 grams of carbohydrate.
• A medium size banana has about 23 grams of carbohydrate.
• Homemade marmite sandwich, 2 rounds of white bread plus margarine has about 30 grams of carbohydrate.

To create a combination of food stuffs in sufficient quantity to meet the 80 grams/hour requirement seems quite easy, but you have to consider how long it takes from eating and digestion, to the time it is actually converted to useable fuel to ensure it “kicks-in” when you expect and there are no “gaps”. Basically simple carbohydrates are converted quickly whilst complex carbohydrates are more “slow burning”. So there doesn’t seem much point eating complex carbohydrates in the last hour because by the time they are converted to energy, the race is over.

I have devised a simple schematic of a feeding plan. I’m not saying it’s right because I haven’t tested it, but if I can set something up based on science and logic rather than guess work, I at least have a formal starting point to make managed changes based on testing and analysis.

The timeline is for a single seven hour effort broken down into the minimum 80 grams of carbs and the type of carbs required per hour.

Minimum fuel requirement

Minimum fuel requirement

The rationale behind this is:

• Normal high complex-carbohydrate food the night before (pasta, baked potato, rice etc).
• Nothing pre-start due to nerves!
• Minimum 80 grams carbohydrates per hour. At least one energy bar and up to half litre of fluid plus anything else.
• Flip to electrolyte drink in hour three to break monotony, re-hydrate and replenish trace electrolytes.
• Change from bars to gels for the last two hours for faster energy return.
• Caffeine gel in last hour to get final boost before finish.
• Water in the last hour if the paddler is sick of additives!
• Recovery shake straight after paddling plus protein bars.
• Back to normal food to prepare for the next day.

Ideally food should be taken frequently in small amounts to maintain a constant flow of fuel. But the main logistical constraint is the challenge of getting access to the paddler at the portages.

Consider day one of DW, Devizes to Newbury, 35 portages in 34 miles. So that’s one portage per mile isn’t it? NO! There are no portages for the first 15 miles (but there are bridges) and that’s nearly three hours. Some of the locks are so close together they are considered a single portage and those that can be supported are infrequent and not evenly spaced apart.

So based on a 5 mile/hour speed, the number of times a vehicle-based Bank Support team can get to the paddler is:

The left scale is miles and the right scale is hours. Each access point is named plus the distance into the race.

Feeding opportunities

Feeding opportunities

It isn’t many. So the majority of the calorie intake will be through fluid as this is what the paddler can access the easiest whilst paddling through a drinking system.

There is a limit to what the paddler can eat, will want to eat, or have time to eat at the portages where there can be supported. This can be supplemented with paddler self-support but they must be “trusted” to take on nourishment.

On day two there are about 10 access points over 36 miles and on day three about 9 over 38 miles assuming that the Bank Support can get timely access. Obviously the tideway on day four has no access points.

The point of this narrative is to illustrate how important it is to have a feeding strategy with contingency plans to mitigate the potential risks if a feeding stop is missed or the paddler’s performance starts to drop as an indication of fuel starvation.

My plan is to support the paddlers by bike and attempt to feed little and often.

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.

Developing a sit&switch racing C1

Over the last three or four years I have been trying out lots of canoe concepts in an attempt to identify the optimum sit&switch racing C1 design.

When I first crossed over to the dark side, I bought an eleven foot C1 from Ebay (where else!!). This was my first experience of a C1 and I soon adapted it for sit&switch rather than kneeling. I did try kneeling but I lost the ability to walk fairly quickly.

The boat had too much rocker, was too short and weighed 22 kgs so I sold it on Ebay, although I did enjoy shooting Symons Yat in it.

First C1

First C1

It then occurred to me that the best starting point was a K1 which I could then adapt. So I duly acquired an old touring K1 and cut the deck off and built a C1. This was quite successful but made of fibre glass, it still weighed 20 kgs

Converted general purpose K1

Converted general purpose K1

The next idea was to use a white water racer. I got this from Ebay and set about converting it. Unfortunately it was miles too unstable and I ended up the water on the Basingstoke canal canoe club challenge.

White Water kayak conversion C1

White Water kayak conversion C1

So I got a Marcos kevlar K1 hull and increased the freeboard height with some plastic planks and won the 2010 Waterside series for C1. It was the year where we had to run the first 8 miles of “C” due to ice.

Macros C1

Macros C1

In order to get rid of the planks, reduce the weight and improve the deck, I cut the deck off the white water racer C1 and secured it to the Marcos hull.


This worked rather well and I built the rear deck from carbon fibre. I also built carbon fibre extensions to the hull on the bow and stern to improve straight line performance.

Stern section hull

Stern section hull

Bow section hull

Bow section hull

As I now had some experience with carbon fibre, I built a C1 from scratch using an Espada K1 with lots of foam changes to the shape to wrap the carbon fibre around.

Espada C1

Espada C1

This was a bit of a disaster as the flat hull ended up so unstable but I still paddled it in 2011 Waterside D and won the series.

I build another boat using the Macros hull and a made up deck for the next carbon fibre version. This is the boat I paddled DW 2012.



I had reached the limit to what I could do with the tools and facilities at home so I was faced with a decision, do I quit now or go the whole hog and get it done by professionals. Well I certainly couldn’t go to my grave without giving it a shot, so “The Darkness” is now a full production canoe to the highest professional standards, but more about that later.

Devizes to Westminster – first female C1 competitors

The Devizes to Westminster (DW) International Canoe Race is arguably the hardest canoe race in the world. 125 miles non-stop from Devizes in Wiltshire to Westminster Bridge in London. In a double kayak (K2) or double Canadian boat (C2)

A kayak is powered using a double ended paddle and has a rudder.  A Canadian or open boat, is paddled using a single blade and a rudder is not allowed.

The DW was first raced in 1948, 66 years ago and the first female competitor completed the race in 1971 in a K2. The DW four day singles event started 29 years ago in 1985 and since then over 1,000 paddlers have completed the race in a single boat including the 2013 event but only 15 of those were in a single canoe (C1).

In the history of the DW, there is no record of a lady paddler ever having completed the event in a C1 and the same can be said about the Waterside Canoe race series which is four races on the DW course leading up to the main event.


Well first reason on the list is clearly because it is “quite hard”. It is THE most challenging vessel to paddle of all race categories and to do it for 125 miles over four days not forgetting the 77 portages where the boat has to be carried around locks and weirs,  is not for the faint hearted.

Another possible reason is the availability of a suitable boat. The current choice is somewhat restricted to traditional family, wilderness and touring crafts which tend to be large, robust and heavy, to the sprint, high-kneelers which are “somewhat” unstable. There are also American boats but they are few and far between in the UK and prohibitively expensive.

That is about to change.

Over the last three years I have developed a lightweight racing C1 which:

  • Weighs 8kgs fully configured
  • Is made of carbon fibre
  • Conforms to the International Canoe Federation (ICF) specification for racing
  • Is paddled sitting down using a sit&switch technique
  • Has a mid-range stability rate of about 4 – 5
  • And looks absolutely stunning!

For the 2014 Waterside series and DW, two of these canoes known as ”The Darkness” will be paddled by two lady competitors who will attempt to make history.

This blog documents the story of this venture and the progress from when I hand over the boats to the athletes to when they arrive at Westminster Bridge on Easter Monday 21st April 2014.

I hope you find it of interest.