This Easter sees the largest ever entry of Bishop Stortford Canoe Club members in the 125 mile Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race. The oldest, toughest and longest canoe race in the world, and known as 'The Canoeists Everest'. The 9-strong team have been training hard all though the winter by attending a series of increasingly gruelling preparation races.
The race is affectionately known as 'The DW'. It’s a true endurance test that requires bucket loads of grit, a decent amount of skill, good balance, and a healthy dose of physical and mental stamina.
Bishop Stortford's youngest competitor this year is 16 year old Euan Caton, who is nervous but ready for the challenge, along with his experienced paddle-partner, former Hong Kong resident, Chris Sze. As a Junior/Vet doubles crew they will be completing the 125-mile course in four stages, starting on Good Friday and finishing Easter Monday. The same applies to their team-mates in one-man kayaks: Matt Parkes, Octavia Abbott, and Dave Hallam.
The senior doubles crews however will race the entire distance non-stop. The Stortford participants will be Ian Abrams & Mike Panrucker, Danny Beazley (partnering Rodrigo Hortal of Cambridge CC) and Neil Boast (partnering Tim Beaver of Nottingham CC).
The team, led by Danny Beazley, has been in training for 7 months and have paddled hundreds of miles in all weathers to toughen them up for the race, which is used by UK Special Forces as a test of endurance and fitness. Beazley and his paddle partner in their 2-man kayak are looking like favourites to win the race but know that nothing is guaranteed. Last year his race ended due to exhaustion just five miles from the finish and he is determined to change that this year. Beazley is part of an august group that has completed the race at least 8 times and join the much coveted '1000 mile club'.
The paddlers will have support crews who will 'feed and water' them at some of the portages, with the night paddle being the most testing part of the race for many.
The fastest crews of two man kayaks and canoes have completed the race in around 17 hours but many have taken over 30 hours of non-stop paddling to reach Westminster Bridge.
- History = The race was conceived by a group of four friends in a pub in 1948
- Distance = 125 miles or 202 kms
- Portages (the number of times the competitors have to get out and carry their kayaks around locks) = 77
- Average number of paddle strokes = 99,000
- Calories burnt per hour = 1200
- Classes = Senior Doubles (2 person kayaks/canoes) complete the race non-stop. Single canoes/kayaks race over 4 days. The Endeavour Class allows people not racing to paddle the course leisurely over the four days
- Completion = About 40% of people do not complete the race, with most suffering from injury or exhaustion, as well as hypothermia.
- Safety - All competitors wear location beacons so they can be tracked on-line. They must wear buoyancy aids and have wristbands to identify them if they drown!