The bare statistics for this extraordinarily ‘British’ event are 125 miles of paddling over four days, from Devizes in Wiltshire to Westminster Bridge on the Kennet and Avon Canal and River Thames, negotiating 77 locks in the process. The crews camp at Newbury, Marlow and Teddington, finishing on the Tideway with the morning’s tide. However, each year presents its own unique challenges. There was little flow on the Thames, giving minimal help, and a head-wind seemed to remain constant throughout. Two of our paddlers were sick, one sustained a shoulder injury and a fourth paddled 10 miles with a broken paddle.
The race makes demands on all involved, not least the support teams, made up of parents and friends. Complex logistics are needed to keep the paddlers fed and watered, driving alongside the course and meeting their crews at pre-arranged points where the paddlers are running around locks.
Times were, inevitably, slower than in some previous years, following weeks of virtually no rain. However, the nine Cranleigh pairs all finished well up the rankings, with the boys’ team (Oli Millward & Ben Durston, Brad Skillicorn & Ed Mundy, and Jack Pearson & Tom Church) gaining seventh place overall and the girls’ team (Ellie Sutherland & Ellie Connor and Immy Way & Emma Kelly) winning their completion – a first for Cranleigh! The Cranleigh paddlers can be immensely proud of their achievement and remain, for the fifth year running, amongst the three most successful schools or clubs to enter both a boys’ and girls’ team.
It is worth noting that the team also raised over £5,000 for various charitable causes, not least for ‘Beyond Ourselves’. As ever, my thanks go to the incredible dedication of those who help train and support this special event: Miss Sally Peers and Dr Christopher Mann, and Roy Briggs and Peter Morley – both coaches at the Wey Kayak Club.
The Team: Oli Millward & Ben Durston, Brad Skillicorn & Ed Mundy, Jack Pearson & Tom Church, Will Osborne & Oli Froy, Hugo Moxey & Andrew Justin, Ellie Sutherland & Ellie Connor and Immy Way & Emma Kelly, Lucy Burton & Freddie Dicks, Ella Gurdon & Kate McGovern.