I’m Nick Adnitt and the promoter behind the female C1 paddler quest to complete the DW.
I started canoeing in 1972 at about 14 years old after a Youth Club weekend at Nassington on the river Nene. There was a plywood touring K1 which I monopolised the whole time, selfishly not letting anyone else have a go. I then acquired a timber canoe frame, put on a new canvas skin on it and spent many pleasant sessions on the Grand Union canal.
I joined the Royal Engineers in 1976 and completed the DW three times:
• 1978 20:51:25 Adnitt N & Grayson S J Royal Engineers 17th
• 1980 19:12:10 Adnitt N & Heath A Royal Engineers 7th
• 1981 18:56:29 Adnitt N & Heath A Royal Engineers 3rd
I also raced white water, slalom, surfing and many sprint regattas at Holme Pierrepont in Nottingham, latterly for Richmond Canoe Club. I especially liked pacing the K4.
I then left canoeing for 28 years due to domestic, family and work priorities diversifying to marathon running (including 5 x London), adventure racing and triathlon for 10 years and then competitive cycling for the last 15 years, but I kept my Jaguar K1.
For some reason, in 2008 I took it back on the water and paddled the 2009 Waterside series having purchased some new-fangled paddles called “wings” from that nice-Mr-Ralph at Marsport. Not that they did me any good coming 7th in the Veteran K1 series.
I looked around for alternatives and focussed on the C1 class noticing that it was not very popular and even if I came last I’d still be on the podium.
There are hundreds of different models of kayak but far fewer options for C1. It seemed to be restricted to the big family boats, the high kneeling “stick” or an American model such as the Wenonah J203. What I wanted was a K1 without the rudder, a bit more stable and no rocker along the hull so it stayed in a straight line.
Unfortunately no such vessel seemed to exist so for the next 3 years I set about developing a new concept. During this time I’ve tried just about every design permutation in some weird and obscure designs and won the C1 Waterside Series in 2010 and 2011. It wasn’t that I was any good but I was the only competitor to complete all four races. Only nine C1 paddlers have achieved this.
I also paddled a C2 in the 2010 DW Endeavour class finishing in 21:35. This is definitely the way to “race” DW. Four days, no tide to catch, daylight all the way and a very stable craft, very civilised!
In 2012 I entered my latest C1 design in the DW. Unfortunately two weeks before the race I suffered a muscle spasm in my back. Now being only 5’ 8” tall I very rarely get injured so this was a bit of a shock. Visits to a chiropractor, my first ever sports massage and some heavy weight prescription drugs got me on the start line in Devizes.
By the time I got to Teddington at the end of day three I was a wreck. The DW takes no prisoners and has no sympathy for paddlers who are not 100% fit and well. However at 05:00 hrs at the start of day four at Thames Young Mariners I was ready to paddle but I didn’t have the courage to actually get in the boat, but to this day I don’t regret it.
So, I’ve channelled a significant amount of experience mostly through trial and error into a production C1. I only ever wanted a single canoe for myself but it is the same amount of investment for one boat as it is for one thousand boats and if I identified the need for this type of canoe, it is reasonable to assume that others may benefit too.
In order to raise the profile of “The Darkness” and establish some sort of credibility, I’m counting on two lady athletes to get the boat to Westminster next year.