Throughout the Spring Term and DW training, the RHS Kayak & Canoe team adopted the simple refrain:
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!
It was a mantra that would be our team’s saviour!
John Handyside, the British Canoe Union and National Development Coach for Racing, Marathon & WWR, described the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race as the longest, hardest, most challenging Canoe Race in the world. It’s 125 miles long and has 77 portages; it’s on canal, river and the notorious tidal Thames. It goes overnight or, for juniors, over four consecutive days – and just to add a bit more flavour, it’s held at Easter, which is not the most ideal time for weather and water conditions.
Well he wasn’t joking, and this year was no exception. Up until the Wednesday before the start, the organisers were facing the possibility of cancelling the race. Extreme weather conditions and very high volumes of water meant that the Safety Officers and Environment Agency had real concerns.
Two days of dry weather and an improving forecast allowed RHS the opportunity to travel to Devizes and on the Friday all of our 6 crews got on to the water. Temperatures were below zero and the wind was energy sapping, but one by one, all finished the first 34 miles in creditable times. Overnight the temperatures plummeted to -5; so low that most junior teams had problems lighting their gas stoves to cook breakfast in the morning.
On the second day, the weather conditions meant that six junior crews had to be withdrawn from the race for safety reasons. Good preparation by the RHS team had paid off and all continued through to day three. By now our parents and supporters realised that this event was more than just a mere race. The Junior DW is the most mentally and physically demanding challenge open to anyone under 19 years of age. Day three was an early rise and although the junior competitors stayed in sheltered accommodation overnight due to adverse weather, the temperature outside was -1 and they still had to cook breakfast.
Blisters had blisters, aches and pains merged into one and wet paddling clothes had to be put back on for the next 38 miles. But despite the odd moan and look of despair, RHS stood out as a well prepared, highly motivated and organised team. And without the invaluable help of our parents and supporters, the race simply would not happen.
On the final day the team coaches, Mr Thompson and Mr Menday, put the RHS crews on the water at Thames Young Mariners in Teddington, taking time to steady paddlers’ nerves and offer a few words before they set off before dashing down to the finish line at Westminster Bridge to count them all back in.
Individual Crew Positions:
Of 81 crews, Cameron Kerr and Oliver Bagley finished 23rd, Zack Tabor and Ed Bourne finished 15th, William Hassell and Adam Hunkin finished 30th in the under 17 category. Anran Chen and Jordan Scott finished 49th and Jordan is now the youngest RHS girl to have completed DW. The girls also made 7th position in the girls’ race out of 22 competitors. Sophie Murrison and Richard Branch finished 14th and were placed 1st in the mixed K2 category.
Matthew Cantelo and James Rutledge finished an impressive 12th overall and were 1st in the Open Canoe race – a position held for 14 years by Bedford College! In the history of the junior race, an Open Canoe crew has never had a top 15 starting time slot on any race day. This only happens to fast K2 boats. An amazing achievement!
- RHS Team B 2nd CCF Race, 4th Schools Race, 6th overall
- RHS Team A 1st CCF Race, 2nd Schools Race, 3rd overall
The paddlers will be presented with their trophies on the 18th May in Newbury.
These results firmly place RHS as one of the top schools and junior kayak clubs in the country. Congratulations to our pupils and their outstanding achievements.
Neiline Kay, Chief Umpire Stages Race, Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race said
Thank you RHS for your incredible team spirit, determination and behaviour this weekend. You are a credit to your hard-working coaches, school and parents. See you again next Easter!