Welcome To My World of Pedals and Paddles

An account of my Sea Kayaking and Mountain Biking exploits

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Devizes to Westminster 2009

What is Devizes to Westminster (DW)?
When first conceived it was the longest Non Stop Canoe (Kayak) Race in the world. Its starts every Good Friday, surprisingly, at The Wharf Devizes in Wiltshire and finishes at the steps to the Festival Hall opposite The Houses of Parliament and next to the London Eye. The Race is 125 miles long, 54 miles are undertaken on the Kennet & Avon Canal the remaining 71miles are on The Thames which is joined at Reading. There are 76 locks which have to be portaged (ran around).
Juniors (K2's and K1) and singles (K1) are required to race over four days whilst Senior K2's have the option to go straight through. A typical target time is to beat 24 hours whilst racing crews go well under 20 hours, the record is sub 17 hours.

DW 2008 was particularly tough due to the weather which was extremely cold. There was a fifty per cent drop out rate and numerous injuries such as broken bones, bruises and various degrees of hypothermia.

The subject was being discussed between various members of the family (myself, Kath & Neil) and of course it had to happen.

' I wouldn't mind a crack at that'
' You'll never do it'
' I will, I'll kick your a..e'
' Right then'

So the challenge has been made, Boat 1 ( I will not be allowed to call it the 'A Team') - me and Neil.
I am the old man of the challenge, but I have experience on my side having done it three times. I have concerns about whether I can do it again 18 years later but, I saw a programme about a fifty three year old camera man who was covering Royal Marine recruits who eventually went to Afganhistan. He completed all the Commando tests and was awarded an Honary Green Beret. I did not get to try for my Green Beret so this will have to do. If you don't know the significance of a Green Beret its not for me to explain.
Neil, is the comedian of our boat and I will be relying on his fantastic sense of humour to see us through. He is also a superb canoeist and I have no doubts about his abilties.

The Competition - Boat No. 2 (we are all one team really)

Kath, ex Junior World Champ, British Champion, and GB Team member for seven years. An awesome record, but that was in Slalom. The question is can she make the switch? if the answer is yes me and Neil could be in trouble.
Helen (H), the dark horse and shy one. Will have to step up to the mark as far as the paddling is concerned. Never one to push herself unless it is necessary but always seems to surprise us and is always there at the end.

So there we have it a real challenge.

So far Boat 1 has had two outings to test out boats, we have been to the new Watersports Centre at Cardiff Bay and we have a Coach - Richard Rogers who also wants to paddle DW 2009. All we need now is to get ourselves a boat.

This is DW 1991, which give a feel to the event.

The Race starts on The Canal at about 8am, the canal is shallow and a lot of drag is experienced.

You have to get out and run around 76 locks, you also have to paddle through a tunnel half a mile long.

The Tideway is a welcome relief, BUT you have to arrive at Teddington to catch the out going tide. A K2 can mananage 6knots but the tide comes in at 6knots. This creates a lot of pressure on competitors.

It also gets very cold in the early morning, we are in there somewhere.
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But getting to the finish must be like standing on Everest.

A big thanks here to Eryl Richards who I have not seen for years but put up with me for the first and third of my DWs and also to Mark Child who completed the second with me. I have also not seen him for years.

And, not forgetting my support crews especially my Wife who gave me all these marvellous children and washes all the kit and agreed to go through it again, my rock solid Daughter Angharad two DWs, Martyn Hughes an amazing three DWs and he is not even family and my Sister Barb and her Husband Charlie. This is one race you do not finish without good support.


Charlie Radclyffe said...

Nice blog! Always interesting to read about peoples' experiences with the race, something I've been thinking about doing for years... Its the 70-odd portages that put me off as I have to walk with crutches and the carrying of a kayak for the distances required would probably be unfeasible... hmmmm...

James Murray said...

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and also for the nice comments. This gives me encouragement to keep writing. I have found DW to be a unique experience that has given me qualities that I still use 17 years later. Good luck in your quest to sample some of what it has to offer.

Peter said...

In Boat 2, you've got Kath, world champ, Team GB...

Kath who?

Good luck with the training.

Sporting Sam said...

The Yukon River Quest is currently the longest kayak race - 740km - the first stage is 343km and is paddled non stop.
A new 1600km will replace the Quest as the longest race - it is called the Yukon 1000 (mile)

Marc Richards said...

Hi Jim,
Amazing what you find online!!

My only experience of the race was as a teenager being a member of the support crew.

They are experiences that I will never forget!!

(Eryl's son!!)

James Murray said...

Hi Marc,
Thanks for reading. It was very rude of me not to give you a mention.
I am thinking of 2015 btw.