This Easter, three crews from the Blundell’s Kayak Racing Squad were able to take part in the world famous Devizes to Westminster canoe race. The end of the race is normally under the iconic Westminster Bridge but this year had to finish after 108 miles, as St Thomas’ hospital was closed for Covid patients.
At the end of five warm up races we had four crews qualified to race but we sadly had to withdraw Grace and Dom after Grace had a close encounter with a snow board. This was hugely disappointing for the whole team and of course for Grace herself.
The race this year was blessed with dry weather and sunshine, which makes everything easier, apart from the paddling, as when the crews arrived on the Thames the usual additional two miles an hour added to boat speed was missing due to lack of flow in the river. Starting in Devizes on Good Friday the crews set off for a mind bending fourteen mile stretch with no portages, paddling at an average of 6mph. After that portages come thick and fast with 77 to be negotiated over the next three days totalling the equivalent distance of a half marathon carrying the boat and running. The boats are awkward, fragile and relatively heavy, full of the compulsory safety equipment, the river banks are slippery, steep and full of spectators and other obstacles to cross including roads, fences and gates.
Competition on the water was fierce, as this was the first time back after two years. Schools were excited to be racing although numbers were lower, with very few entrants from Junior Clubs. Lack of corporate knowledge between the paddlers and their parents in the vital support role meant it could at times be stressful to get to portages in time to resupply the paddlers without losing a place, not too dissimilar to a F1 pitstop. At the end of each day paddlers have to put up their own tents, cook their food, tend to their blisters and prepare boats for the next day.
The three Blundell’s crews surpassed all expectations and hopes. Isabel and Jack overcame a damaged rudder, requiring a new fitting, but still finished in the top half of all of 62 finishing junior crews, and 10th in the mixed schools class. Lilinka and James finished 5th in the mixed schools class, 16th junior crew overall. And Connie and Barnaby finished in an incredible third place out of all of the junior crews, beaten only by two very experienced club boats. They were the 1st Schools Boat. And the 1st mixed School boat. This is a seriously impressive set of results which is the culmination of 6 months of long hours on and off the water and a lot of preparation out of school time, and dedication by the parent and friends making up the support crews, without which the racing could not happen.
A huge thanks to Mrs Taylor-Ross and all the parents who supported this event.