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Devizes to Westminster Kayak Race for The Childhood Eye Cancer Trust

Devizes to Westminster Kayak Race for The Childhood Eye Cancer Trust
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This is to thank all those that gave donations to the childhood eye cancer trust, charity # 327493. To date we have raised approximately £5,061.00 and you can still help us by giving through our Just Giving page or at Thurston Post Office.

“This race is known as the canoeists Everest, and takes place over one or four days. We chose to do it in one day. Competitors paddle the 125 miles carrying their boats over 77 portages during this gruelling challenge, “Portages being places that you can’t get past so you need to get out and carry the boat to a place that you can get back into the water” support crews are not allowed to touch the boat other than to carry out a repairs”

We all arrived in Devizes at 4pm on Easter Friday, booked ourselves into the hotel and unpacked for an overnight stay before heading off to register for the race. Our allotted time for booking in was 7pm. This was a tense moment because if anything was not in place we would not be allowed to continue. The boat was given a thorough safety check and all the kit was inspected. Each person had to carry the same safety equipment and emergency rations food/water.

Next we had to register and were issued with a number, this was 317. We were now ready to start the challenge at 7:30am the next morning “Saturday” so we all headed back to the hotel for some food and an early night.

The start off the race was on time and it all went smoothly. Each competitor started at ten minute intervals. We were now on our way to paddling a total distance of a hundred and twenty five miles with seventy seven portages.

Our job as support crew was to follow us along the river and give us advice on approaching locks, supply food, water, dry clothing TLC and encouragement. Our support crew split into two cars with the intention to leapfrog each other from lock to lock. There were several places that were extremely challenging to get to. This was while carrying a huge rucksack full of cloths food and cooking equipment and only a small torch for light.

Unfortunately we all soon realised that our average speed was not going to be enough to reach Teddington on time due to a head wind, we had only been doing 4.9 MPH and needed to be doing 5.5 MPH. We arrived at Teddington at 10:45 forty five minutes too late for the first tide

We were told that we were not allowed to go any further than 100 meters from the water or we would be disqualified. Luckily there was a lovely pub right on the water’s edge, just on the other side of the river. We walked over the bridge and spoke to the landlord who was very accommodating, we sat outside under a huge umbrella, we were all soaked through as it was pouring down with rain at this point, the landlord turned the patio heaters on so we could dry all our kit while we waited. We decided to book a table so that we could have our first proper meal in two days. Our table was booked for 4pm and this was the only space they had available. This was a great result as this would give us two hours for dinner and time left to get changed back into our paddle gear which at this point would be dry suits. We could get on the water any time after 6:40 but we elected not to start until 7:30 this would give us an extra benefit of a strong flowing tide to help us along.

We knew that several teams had already been tipped out of their boats by passing motor cruisers going too fast and this was a real worry but we knew the boat was fairly stable and should keep us reasonably safe. We were waved off by a cheering crowd. The last stretch from Teddington to Westminster was 17 miles long and tidal. The tide rips through the bridges at up to nine knots , if something were to go wrong or if we had a slight lack of concentration the water could turn us over and that would have been the end for our bid as the support team could no longer help us over the last 17 miles and the next time we would see them would be at the finishing line.

The two support crews drove to Westminster and were allowed to park in St Thomas’s Hospital car park. From there it was a three minute walk to the finish line, just under the London Eye and looking across the river to Big Ben. The water front looked amazing; crowds lined the embankment and cheered each boat home, the atmosphere was electric.

We arrived and finished at 10:15, tired but very happy and both walked up the steps from the river to receive our medals amongst lots of cheering and clapping. We had done it !


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