Devizes to Westminster 2015
Andrew isn’t the only member of the ETX Capital team to be undertaking an impressive trial of fitness and endurance; our SEO Specialist Mike Webb (1999 World Champion in Dragon Boat Racing with Team GB) is about to test the waters in a canoe race like no other – dwrace.org.uk.
Over the Easter weekend of 2015 I will be competing in the Annual Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race, more commonly known as the DW. The race has been described as the canoeists’ “Everest” with 125 miles of canal and river raced non-stop in sometimes the most challenging of conditions. The race is so physically and mentally tough that between a quarter and a third of the boats that start the race fail to finish.
Each year the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race starts in Devizes, Wiltshire and finishes just downstream of Westminster Bridge in central London, on the South Bank.
The race has been held annually over the Easter Weekend since 1948.
The race is 125 miles long and has 77 portages. The first 52 miles are along the Kennet and Avon Canal to Reading, the next 55 miles are on the River Thames to Teddington. The final 17 mile section is on the tidal portion of the Thames.
The race is a severe test of skill, physical and mental stamina and planning which produces a memorable sense of achievement for those successfully completing it.
I have completed this race twice before in 2012 (31st overall) and 2013 (24th overall) but racing in a two-man racing canadian canoe (C2).
This year I’ll be competing in the same class – senior doubles – but in a two-man racing kayak (K2) with a new partner and we’re hoping for a top ten finish.
There are 7 warm-up races that lead up to the DW which gives competitors the chance to practice most of the course, which is essential for first-timers as usually at least half of the DW is done at night.
To give you a bit more background about me, I have been kayak racing for over 20 years and have competed nationally. My partner Rob has been racing for nearly 10 years and has done the DW 7 times, finishing 5 of them.
The First Race
On 4th January was the first race. A mere 13 mile race with 3 portages from Weybridge to Richmond – The Frank Luzmore Memorial Race.
The weather was predictably wintery at only about 2C and a decent amount of fog.
Rob and I are not exactly young so we entered the Veterans category to get a more competitive race, and that’s exactly what we got. On the start line we were promptly absorbed in to the leading group and after 2 miles managed to break free in a sprint with another crew. We stayed with them for another 4 miles before being unceremoniously dropped. We expended a decent amount of energy trying to stay with them to get a good lead on the chasing group. The inevitable happened and all those mince pies over Christmas suddenly affected our fitness and they steadily caught us with a few miles to go. In the end we finished a creditable 3rd out of 19 crews in a time of 1:27:06.
The Second Race
On 8th February was the second race. Slightly longer at 13.5 miles, but with 21 portages this time in sunny and crisp conditions. It’s a one-way race/time trial from the little village of Great Bedwyn and finishes in the centre of Newbury.
The start was just after 11am as the slower crews were allowed to start much earlier. Being in the Veterans K2 category we were in one of the most competitive races. We quickly overtook some of the slower people in front of us and had clear water through most of the race. Our portages were slick and fast and overtaking people on the portages became almost expected, except for the one time I slipped of the edge whilst trying to get back in the boat after one of the last portages. That cost us almost a minute. The water wasn’t too cold by the way.
We finished strongly despite having to run a couple of hundred metres within the last mile because part of the canal hadn’t melted yet!
Overall results were 3rd out of 34 boats in class (Veterans K2), 22nd out of 309 boats in total.
The Third Race
On 15th February was the third race. It was slightly shorter than the last at 12.5 miles and 13 portages, but no easier. The race ran from Aldermaston Wharf and finished in Reading, just above Caversham Bridge.
We started as soon as we could to give us the best chance of getting clear water to race on. The portages were as slick as last week and the overtaking became commonplace again, although this time we were overtaken at a few of them due to various members of the GB team also taking part in this race. I slipped in again this week, but this time it was due to a muddy bank and again it was only waist high water.
Overall results this week were 1st out of 16 boats in Veterans K2, 16th out of 135.
The race distances go up from here.
The Fourth Race
On 22nd February was the fourth race. Newbury to Aldermaston Wharf, and back.
The conditions were expected to deteriorate throughout the morning so we got as early a start as possible; just before the official 10am start. This meant we had clear water for the first half of the race until just after the turn. It worked out to be a very shrewd move as we finished the race just as the wind picked up and the rain started hammering down. Some of our club mates weren’t so lucky.
No slippages this time and we came third again, to the same guys who beat us in Waterside A.
Overall results this week were 3rd out of 35 boats in class, 21st out of 262 finishers in total.
Next race is Thameside 2 from Reading to Marlow, 19 miles with only 8 portages. I’ll keep you posted!