Stortford paddlers Chris Sze and Kerstin Queeney headed off to the 2022 ICF Masters World Championships held on 26-27 September in Ponte de Lima, Portugal. The K1 racing took place first - Chris came 24th in K1 mens 60-64 (1:52:56) and Kerstin was 10th in the ladies 55-59 race (1:42:47)
On the following day Chris paired up with Gordon Bullock to come 6th in the mens 60-64 K2 race and came 6th (1:54:11). Kerstin together with Catherine Ayling then secured a bronze medal in the ladies 55-59 K2 event (1:28:40). Well done!
Full results can be found at
They had no bank support crew – everything they needed would have to be carried with them in the boat – camping & cooking gear, basic rations and clothing. Also (no surprise this, to those who know Chris) a fair quantity of tech – phones, GPS watches, two GoPro cameras, and a solar panel for charging.
They used a Kirton Inuk Duo kayak to which they fitted a pair of robust wheels for the inevitable portages en route. It was also adorned with a Union Jack and a photo of their friend and inspiration the late Steve Truglia.
The adventure began with the drive through France and into Germany, dealing along the way with baffling motorway toll systems, internet connection problems, card payment issues and all the other issues that can bedevil any international trip. More seriously, the boat came loose from the roof-rack on the motorway - but was saved in time from flying off, which would have brought a very early end to the expedition! At last they arrived at Ulm in Germany, where they were to launch.
Chris and Gordon were received very warmly by everyone they met throughout their travels. They found the Croatians particularly hospitable – stopping at a place which they mistook for a restaurant Chris and Gordon were given food only to discover that they had inadvertently gate-crashed a private party! Their charming hosts not only fed them but helped them find a suitable camping spot.
When they reached Iron Gate Gorge, the pair found themselves battling crosswinds which made paddling exhausting, and the waves from the large number of tourist sightseeing boats caused their kayak to be thrown all over the place.
Chris and Gordon were not sure of the best way around the dam on this canal, so decided to walk down there from their hotel to have a look around and take some photos of the layout. As the area also includes Romania’s nuclear power plant, armed police soon arrived. Fortunately the officers spoke English, and as soon as Chris and Gordon had convinced them that they were not a security threat, the police very kindly drove them round to show them the best portage points before dropping them back at their hotel.
At long last, 40 days after they had set off from Ulm, the two intrepid paddlers reached the Black Sea. They had averaged 60km a day, paddled 12 times the length of the DW and probably made something like 500,000 paddle stokes. Despite all the difficulties they encountered, they only fell out with each-other once – but perhaps most importantly they made even more friends wherever they went.
See the full story of their journey on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Danube-Trip-of-Gordon-Chris-2022-103137982407340
Gordon and Chris encouraged their supporters to give to the Big Paddle Challenge which is fundraising for Beyond Words. Beyond Words is a small charity which produces a range of life-skills storybooks based on pictures rather than words for the benefit of those with learning disabilities - find out more at https://bigpaddlechallenge.co.uk/ and https://www.gofundme.com/f/beyond-words-big-paddle-2022
Photos courtesy Chris & Gordon
Gordon Bullock paired up with GB teammate Bryn Price to race in the Mens 65-69 K2 over 15.4km, achieving a time of 1:26:07.
The host club had a beautiful new clubhouse about 100m downstream from the original club which had been built by its members over last two years and largely funded by a grant from the local parish council. The new club included a camping area with electrical hook up points for those with caravans or camper vans and more than adequate space for the rest of us in tents. There was also a large patio area with plenty of seating for people to eat at of have a drink.
We were welcomed on arrival by the president of the club and after taking a short walk down the road to get some dinner we joined him in the Kastelse Kayak Klub bar. We shared a few stories about races he had done in the UK and some of us had done abroad in the past and then he proudly showed us the DW K1 team trophy that his club had won in 1998. A trophy that will hopefully have Bishops Stortford’s name on it in 2017.
We then put half of our boats on the Kastelse Kayak Klub trailer and just took Dave’s car to the start which was an easy 11km drive. The race started at 2:00pm on a wide dead straight canal with all classes starting on one mass start.
Joe F and Matt made the large front group to the first portage which was about 2.5km from the start with Danny in the second group just behind. Joe S was on his own between groups with Dave behind and Heidi and Chris together further back. After the portage the front group split with Matt in the second half and Joe F off the back and quickly caught by Danny’s group. There was 4km between the first and second portage and still the wide canal remained dead straight. Once back on the water after the second portage the large groups were reducing to 3’s and 4’s with Matt in group 2, Danny in group 3 and Joe F in group 4. The race continued on for another 3km to the next portage and still there was no sign of a bend in the canal. After portage 3 it was 3.5km to the most crucial point in the race, the 1.2km portage from the large navigation canal to the river Kastelse Kayak Klub is based on. Having said that, it could be argued the first bend in the canal 1.5km before this portage was the crucial point. Would people still remember how to use their rudders, would the rudder cable have seized through lack of use, would they get giddy negotiating a slight left hand bend. Despite all the excitement of this slight kink in the canal, we all made it safely around this bend.
The long portage was along a very smooth flat cycle path with many locals fitting skateboard wheels to the deck of their boats and dragging them along the path. This was a good opportunity for those that could run well to bridge the gap to the group in front. Danny closed the gap to Matt passing the K2 that had been in his group and getting in with the top junior K1 a few metres down on Matt and the other K1 from the 2nd group. The few metres gap was closed quickly and soon Matt and Danny were working together and dropped the other two Belgium K1’s on the shallow fast flowing upstream 5km section to the finish line ensuring the fight for 5th and 6th place would be an all Stortford affair.
Dave overtook Joe F and closed the gap to less than a minute on Joe S by the end of the run and Heidi also run well over this portage putting plenty of time between her and Chris (still recovering from a knee injury).
The last 5km was the section of river that had been damaged by flooding 2 weeks ago and had largely been drained and filled with the sandy soil from the banks. This section was also fairly fast flowing against us and seemed extra tough having spent the previous 15km on deep wide canal. This section did somehow seem to suit the Stortford paddlers with all of us gaining places. This could be due to the weed on our own canal creating a similar effect on water depth and drag.
Matt was first home coming a very respectable 5th with Danny on his wash in 6th but taking 1st veteran. Joe S was the next Stortford boat home 17th across the line and 9th in the senior men’s K1 followed a few minutes later by Dave 20th across the line but taking 2nd super veteran K1. Heidi was next to cross the line winning a very impressive silver medal in the senior ladies K1 and 28th overall with Joe F finishing 29th overall and 13th in the senior men’s K1. Chris was 31st across the line and 5th in the super veterans K1.
After a quick shower Danny and Dave retrieved the car left at the start whilst everyone else made the most of their free drinks tokens. Boats were loaded on the cars and tents etc packed in the boot and following prize giving we left the club at 6pm arriving home around 11:30pm. This was an extremely success club social trip with the added bonus of a great race. It was also extremely cheap and an event it would be great to see many more of you attend next year. We extend our gratitude to Kastelse Kayak Klub for the great hospitality and for looking after us so well.
Senior Men’s K1
Matt Parkes – 5th - 1:34:48
Joe Surrage – 9th – 1:41:42
Joe Fitzpatrick – 13th – 1:56:46
Senior Ladies K1
Heidi White – 2nd – 1:56:45
Danny Beazley – 1st – 1:34:51
Super Veterans K1
Dave Hallam – 2nd – 1:45:22
Chris Sze – 5th – 2:03:25
Stortford's Ella Beatty achieved third place in the Junior Ladies race in the 2015 Gent International Marathon, with a time of 1:51:42.
The course for the 18km race begins on the Regatta Lake in Gent, followed by two 7km laps through the centre of the town along the canal system before returning to the lake. Ella's achievement is very impressive as the standard of competition at this event is always very high and the distance is somewhat longer than she would normally race.
Ella was one of 20 promising young canoeists invited to take part in the event as part of the GB Development Squad. Each year the Marathon Racing Committee review the participants they have seen at the regional training days and hand-pick a number of youngsters to compete in this prestigious and challenging event. The intention is to identify some of the youngsters who may eventually progress into the GB team and give them some early experience of international competition.