Kayak Racing Squad (KRS)

  • Resilience
  • Adventure
  • Excellence
  • Independence

On this page: About us | Training | Annual Plan | Racing Ethics | Kayaks and Kit | Reporting | News | Gallery | Forms & Documents | Devizes to Westminster Competitors

About the KRS

The Racing Squad is run along the lines of a national racing club, and welcomes students new to paddling from years 10-13. We introduce beginners to racing in kayaks in the summer and autumn terms. The focus for the spring term is to compete in the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race. It is one of the few sports that students can choose in all three terms, boys and girls train and compete together. The school has had considerable successes over the last 2 years in national schools and club events.

Once paddlers are competent in basic paddling techniques in K1 and K2 racing kayaks they can go on to any or all of the following:

  1. To compete in the International Devizes to Westminster race, 125 miles, 4 days over the Easter weekend.
  2. To compete in Schools regional and national races.
  3. To compete in the regional Club Hasler series, racing under the umbrella of Exeter Canoe Club.
  4. To paddle as a Sports option, to improve their fitness levels and to develop better paddling technique and water skills, with no obligation to race. This option suits students who are recovering from injuries for example, and for those who want a serious challenging alternative to traditional team sports.

Training Programme

Students who choose canoeing as their sport will train four times a week, at least 3 of those session with a qualified racing coach, Jim Taylor-Ross MBE, himself an ex GB paddler in multi-disciplines.

Day Time Activity
Tuesday 4.00 – 5.30pm (1.5hrs) Land based fitness / Paddle technique
Wednesday 1.00 – 5.30pm (2hrs training, 2hrs travelling) Water based training session out of Exeter Canoe Club
Friday 4.00-6.00pm (1.5hrs training) Water skills – swimming pool (Autumn term)
Land based fitness after half term
Saturday 1.00 – 4.30pm (3hrs training) Water based training – Tiverton Canal

Students will receive top quality coaching in the following:

  1. Efficient forward paddling technique
  2. Open water safety
  3. Race training including wash hanging and reading the water
  4. Sports nutrition and hydration – build up, during and after racing
  5. Injury prevention including stretching and flexibility
  6. Mindset and motivation
  7. Planning training sessions
  8. Competing to win


Annual Plan for the KRS

As with any race club training is based around the annual race calendar. We take beginners in the summer and autumn term, aiming towards the first race in November, the National Schools Championships.

At the end of term we offer students the opportunity to take part in a week long Winter Training Camp in Tarifa, Spain with the top European coach. This gives our students a great advantage for the spring racing season.

We compete in the 4 Waterside races, based around Devises and Newbury, and the 2 Thameside races near Reading. These are the pre-requisites for the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race. This internationally renowned race always take place over Easter weekend, with under 18 paddlers competing over 4 days.  

In the summer term we concentrate on club paddling at various events in the south west, including regional club Haslers and the South West Schools Championships. The most capable students also have the opportunity to compete in the National Surf Ski Series.

Racing Squad Ethics

Members of the Racing Squad can expect to work hard to achieve the highest rewards. Rewards can be in the form of a fantastic paddle one afternoon, not just in medals. It can go wrong on the river but risk is minimised if one is prepared, well organised and plans in advance. Certain expectations are required by squad members at all times. These include:

  1. Highest level of commitment at all times.
  2. Good communications - with staff, partner and within the squad, and with house staff/parents.
  3. Good organisation – being ready on time for training and racing, with the right kit for getting on the water, warm kit for afterwards.
  4. Looking after the kit – it is expensive, fragile and needs to be maintained to remain in good condition.
  5. Sportsmanship, on the water and off.
  6. Healthy mind, healthy body – successful paddling includes fitness, technique, nutrition, rest and mindset. 
  7. Teamwork - Thinking for oneself, for the squad.

Kayaks and Kit

The school has a good array of beginner and intermediate K1 and K2 racing kayaks. Our top level athletes, racing nationally, are generously sponsored by one of the last remaining canoe manufacturers in the country, locally based Kirton Kayaks.

We also benefit from our affiliation with Exeter Canoe Club to add diversity and range to our existing stable, including K4 boats.

We also have access to the full range of Epic Surf Skis, excellent for introducing paddlers to racing kayaks on flat water, but designed for off shore racing. See’s will provide the kayaks, paddles, and safety equipment (buoyancy aid, cagoule, spray deck). For land based fitness sessions Blundell’s sports kit will be worn. For water training students are to wear/bring:

  • Thermal leggings / wetsuit shorts
  • Thermal long sleeved top (skin)
  • Wet shoes / old plimsolls with a flat, soft sole (we can advise)
  • Towell and warm clothes for afterwards
  • Water bottle (required for all sessions)

Reporting progress

A written record is kept of every training session and race with comments on performance of each student. This is updated weekly and kept as a record of progress. A short summary of this will be sent to House Parents for end of term reports and parents are encouraged to speak directly to the coach for progress updates.


Unfortunately there is an additional charge on the school bill for this sport. After the first week of initial taster sessions (free of charge) students will be charged between £200-250 per term depending on numbers. This covers 4 sessions a week, top quality coaching, kayaks and safety equipment and works out at approx. £5 per session.

There are additional costs incurred for some races, approx. £25 per race which covers race entry, packed lunch, transport and equipment.


Latest News and Links

Blundell’s KRS Successes

Since the re-emergence of the Club in 2014 Blundell’s paddlers have gone from strength to strength.


Devizes to Westminster

Race stopped due to weather conditions after two days:
U17 Junior Doubles 3rd Place ~ W. G. Hones and A. S. Johnson-Ferguson


National Schools Championships: Senior Team ~ 3rd Place overall,
Mixed Sprint 1st Place ~ A. Bury and E. L. Trigger

KRS Gloucester Hasler Finals

K1 3rd Place ~ S. C. B. Taylor,
K1 5th Place ~ J. J. Huggett and H. J. G. Johnstone,
K2 1st Place ~ J. M. Huntingford and E. H. Moore,
K2 3rd Place ~ M. D. C. Huntingford and J. Taylor, Single K1 ~ E. L. Trigger

KRS Fowey Hasler

Division 5 7th Place ~ S. C. B. Taylor,
Division 6 K2 6th Place ~ A. Bury and W. G. Hones, 8th Place ~ J. M. Huntingford and G. M. Pitts, K1 13th Place ~ A. S. Johnson-Ferguson,
Division 8 4th Place ~ E. H. Moore and E. L. Trigger, Division 9
3rd Place ~ M. D. C. Huntingford and J. Taylor

KRS South West Schools Championships

Open Team Marathon 2nd Place,
Open Team Sprint 3rd Place ~ W. G. Hones, A. S. Johnson-Ferguson,
G. M. Pitts and S. C. B. Taylor,

Girls K2

Marathon Winners ~ J. M. Huntingford and M. D. C. Huntingford,
Sprint Winners ~ J. M. and M. D. C. Huntingford

KRS Jersey ‘Round the Island’ Surfski Race

D. J. H. Glaisher [OB] and F. B. L. Huntingford [OB]

Waterside Series A

K1 2nd Place ~ S. C. B. Taylor, K2 2nd Place ~ W. G. Hones and A. S. Johnson-Ferguson, 6th Place ~ M. D. C. Huntingford and J. Taylor

Waterside Series B

K1 1st and 2nd Places S. C. B. Taylor,
Junior Boys Schools ~ 2nd and 3rd Places A. S. Johnson-Ferguson and W. G. Hones,
1st and 3rd Places M. D. C. Huntingford and J. Taylor

Thameside Series One

Junior Boys K2 2nd place, A. S. Johnson-Ferguson and W. G. Hones, Junior Girls 1st Place J Taylor and M. D. C. Huntingford,
Senior Mixed Class 10th Place J. M. Huntingford and J. L. White,
Junior K1 7th Place S. Taylor

South West Regional Race

K1 Division 6 1st Place ~ A. S. Johnson-Ferguson, 3rd Place ~ W. G. Hones

Great Britain Surfski Doubles Championships

U18 Ocean Racing Champions ~ W. G. Hones and A. S. Johnson-Ferguson


Blundell’s win all categories in the South West Schools’ Kayak Championships 2016

Blundell’s students take part in Paddlefest, St Ives

Devizes to Westminster

Dougal and Francis win the Junior DW race 2016

Blundell’s Canoe Club, having arisen from dormancy just last year, is now a well-established racing club with paddlers competing in marathon races all year round for the fun of the sport.

The Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race or DW as it's known, is a major feature on the club’s calendar. The race involves paddling for 125 miles from Devizes, Wiltshire to Westminster Bridge, London. The first 52 miles are on the Kennet and Avon canal and the next 73 on the river Thames. Along the way there are 77 portages - one has to get out, carry the boat around a lock and get back in to continue paddling 77 times. While some bonkers adults choose to complete the race non-stop, we would be racing set distances for 4 days over the Easter weekend.

Four pupils entered this year’s event; Tabby Pring and Bethan Wesley took on the challenge for the first time, having started paddling in the summer term of 2015, while we decided to have another shot at the event after last years’ experience.

With Easter early this year, we made our pilgrimage directly from school to Devizes the night before the race. A squad supper in a Devizes pub set us in good stead for the next day and gave us a chance to discuss team tactics before returning to our B&B’s for an early night.

I awoke on Friday morning not to the sound of rain hammering on the window as predicted but to glorious golden rays of sunlight streaming through our curtains. With new-found confidence that the Gods were on our side, we left the comfort of our beds, knowing such luxury wouldn’t be felt till after the next four days of suffering.

We headed down to Devizes Warf where officials checked we had the compulsory safety kit stowed away in our boat. The girls had decided they would start early to get ahead of the traffic so had already left, while we had prioritised sleep and aimed to set off at 9.30.

Boats are set off at 1 minute intervals and then work against the clock to the finish line. Day 1 is from Devizes to Newbury, 34 miles with 34 portages. The first couple of miles are painful but as your muscles warm up you start to get in the flow of things and for the next 15 miles you can simply get into the rhythm of paddling as there are no locks and therefore no portages.

The first major obstacle of the day is the Bruce Tunnel. This tunnel is 450 metres long and once inside it is pitch black. The feeling of the paddling through the cool darkness is disorientating and it is common for crews to fall in whilst in the tunnel. You focus on the tiny glow of light coming from the exit until you emerge back into daylight.

Once out, all hell breaks loose. In the next 19 miles there are 31 locks - the equivalent to a portage just over every ½ mile. We decided to save the time and effort of portaging numerous times by running around chains of locks instead of repeatedly getting in and out.

An essential part of the DW is the support crew and luckily our families agreed to feed us and keep us going at each portage - a crucial role in the smooth running of the race.

The cycle of paddling and portaging continues all day until you reach the finish line, an exhausting 34 miles later. We finished the day feeling elated to see we were in 1st place with a time of just over 5 hours. Our main competition for this year’s event, Dan Palmer and Bronte Holden, an experienced pair from Fowey River Canoe Club, were 8 minutes back meaning all we had to do was defend our position – sounds easy in theory. Bethan and Tabby finished 1 minute behind the 5th girls crew and in 32nd place overall. In a field of 82 boats, their time of 6 ½ hours was very impressive.

Camping is part of the race and the support crew aren’t allowed to help erect the tent or even enter the campsite. After a full day of racing, fatigue begins to set in and all we wanted to do was collapse into our sleeping bags, but it is essential you force yourself to eat to fuel yourself for the next day.

The next day we woke up knowing we had to do the same thing again. Crews set off at two minute intervals, slowest first. We warmed our stiff muscles up with a jog for the 37 miles and 29 portages from Newbury to Marlow. The format was the same as day 1 and the motivation of chasing down the Bronte and Dan in front kept us going as hard as we could all day. We never caught sight of our opposition and finished the day mentally broken with our lead reduced to 3 and a half minutes.

Day 3 seemed to blur into day 2 due the proximity of a rookery, the A404 and the ensuing lack of sleep. The morning was warm but even the slightest breeze penetrated enough to remind us of the aches of the previous two days. We set off with a furious sprint hoping to catch the crew who started 2 minutes ahead of us within half an hour. Unfortunately, they had other ideas and the day continued with them never more than three minutes ahead of us but we never even caught a glimpse of them. Just after setting off we passed the back end of the 24 hour race in the form of the Royal Marines in their combat ready kayaks. Around lunch time, the weather started to deteriorate – we had hail, thunder and lightning and a headwind around every other meander which made things even more exciting with 1-2ft of wind chop. When we finally arrived at Teddington, we could barely dip our paddles in the water from fatigue and after trudging to the campsite to be met with cold showers, spirits were at an all-time low. Mercifully, the sun started to shine and so we could warm up after eating our bodyweight in Bolognese. It was about five o’clock when we heard the first rumour of a storm approaching overnight – and peaking when we would have set off at 5 o’clock the following morning to catch the tide. At 6:30pm the decision was made to cancel the last day, after which there was a weird party atmosphere in the camp and an even weirder sudden compulsive eating.

It was definitely the right call as during the night, a bout of sickness hit the camp and gale force winds and horizontal rain blew some tents away and the portaloos over (eeeuch!) Still, it was a fantastic three days racing and was definitely worth it. The last day is actually the easiest as there are no portages you can just sit upright on the ebb tide and be carried down to Westminster in just a few hours. Consequently, we felt that we had done the hardest by far and the last day wouldn’t have tested us any more – unless we had been on the water during the storm!

The decision was made that the results stood from the third day’s race and so we managed to hold off the Fowey Club crew to win the junior category with just 28 seconds to spare, after 15 hours and 3 mins paddling, completing 108 miles of incredible racing in some really challenging conditions. Bethan and Tabby were the 4th girl’s school crew, setting a monster time that would have beaten all of the Blundell’s boats last year, apart from us!

Blundell’s KRS Winter Training Camp, 10-17 Dec 2015

On the last day of the Christmas term 7 students and 3 staff packed into a school mini-bus en-route for Bristol Airport and a flight to Malaga. From Malaga we drove down to the southern most tip of Spain and arrived in Tarifa, for a warm weather canoe training camp. The aim of the trip was to prepare for the 2016 race season, and to give Blundell’s students the opportunity of training in a world class surf ski school. Our coach for the week was Boyan Zlatarev, one of the leading European SurfSki instructors.

On the first morning Boyan assessed our skills by taking us each out in a fairly stiff breeze, in a double Epic Surf Ski. This gave him, Jens (assistant instructor) and Jim (our coach) the chance to see us in action and make a plan for the training week ahead.

The next 5 days followed a similar structure – starting the day in the sunshine at 9am with a theory session. We then got out onto the water, via the beach in front of our apartments, to practise our new skills. After a lunchtime siesta and trip to the supermarket it was a bit more theory followed by a late afternoon paddle – all downwind to the beach at the end of the bay. The first half of the week the wind died down which meant we had time to practice skills without having waves hit us. As the week went on the swell grew which meant the surf zone and the sea got bigger waves, increasing up to two and a half metres. On the third day Boyan gave us a theory lesson on how to get through the surf zone safely – it was harder than it looks! We shared some success and one amazing fail. Boyan had told us the hardest part was the coming back to the beach – Eve proved his point!

As the swell grew we could practice surfing the waves more. This was more fun as you could surf the waves for longer and we learnt that more skill equals less effort and more riding the waves. Boyan insisted that we had to scream or yell whenever we caught a wave – it got noisy! We also did a lot of remount practice – ostensibly to cool off in the heat, Eve and I being the most regular.

In the middle of the week the girls went off to a riding centre which was on the beach. We had great fun riding through the forest and then a gallop along the beach, which was amazing! All the horses had western saddles and hackamore bridles.

Each theory session was based on what we would be doing that day, so how to surf a wave, the surf zone, beach safety- rips and safety equipment. At the beginning of each session we were well drilled on what we had learnt to previous day and what we wanted to improve on. This really helped us all improve individually. On one of the trips we went in search for bigger waves so headed out to the reef. I was in the v10 double with Mr Taylor-Ross and we got quite a lot of speed up. Everyone else was in the slightly more stable V8 boats. The reef formed a patch of bigger waves which we could use like rapids we would paddle up and then turn around and speed down over them. Everyone managed to catch lots of waves and it was greatly enjoyed. With two of us in a boat we could get more speed up so when we caught a wave we could stay on it for longer.

The whole week was one of Eve and my best life experiences and taught us a lot - not just about how to paddle on the ocean. Having to budget, shop and cook our own food, and keep our own apartments clean was very rewarding - especially when you cooked something that tasted good! In the last night we all went out for a meal and got a chance to speak to Jens and Boyan about their previous experiences a little more. It was an excellent trip and a unique opportunity.

Written by Georgina Pitts, proof-read by Eve Neusinger

Anna Hemmings gives motivation tips

2 x Olympian and 6 x World Champion, Anna Hemmings, the UK’s most successful canoeist, gives motivation tips to Blundell’s Paddlers.



Waterside Series and training for the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race

Canoeing     Canoeing

Canoeing     Canoeing

Forms & Documents

Devizes to Westminster Competitors

Class Competitors Time
Junior K2 Dougal Glaisher and Francis Huntingford
(Winners of the Junior K2 and The Wiltshire Gazette Shield)
Junior K2 Tabi Pring and Bethan Wesley 19.32.03
Junior K2 Dougal Glaisher and Francis Huntingford 19.10.03
Junior K2 Tabitha Unsworth–White and Austin White 24.47.04
Junior K2 Ollie Hall-Tomkin and Cormac Oliver 23.13.18
Junior K2 Jennifer Mettam and Lola Watt ccd 23.37.18
Junior K2 Jim Taylor-Ross and Laurenz Hoek 18.57.37