The Devizes-Westminster International kayak race this year turned out to be the most challenging in the event’s entire 65 year history, witnessing high flood-waters and bitterly cold weather which inevitably took a great toll and saw a record number of retirements at all levels from the race. Our competitor pairs in ‘K2s’ raced through four days starting on Good Friday and finishing on Easter Monday following canal stretches and the River Thames; a route covering 125 miles and 77 portages (the latter involve running flat out while carrying the boat around obstacles). The event also required paddlers to camp each night and to cook breakfasts and suppers and involved many early morning starts including a 3.30am wake-up call on the final day at the Teddington Young Mariners camp centre: the stuff that tests people!
Nick Kelly and Ed Roberts led the way for Cranleigh and finished 13th in their class out of nearly a hundred boats; achieving a time of 20 hours, 26 minutes: a truly remarkable feat given their so recent introduction to the sport. In the process they won the School’s Hayton George Cup for the fastest pair. Imara Gluning and Rachel Lubbock set the pace for the girls’ doubles pairs coming 6th overall (23 hours and 6 minutes) while breaking various School records along the way and winning Cranleigh’s de Haast Merrett trophy for the fastest girls’ pair. Julian Browning and Henry Graham-Rack were awarded the Davie Howie trophy (fastest Cranleigh crew pair on one of the days) with Kitty Cahill and Abi Doherty receiving the Peter Morley cup for their ongoing exhibition of ‘unusual fortitude’. Sam Foster and Will Yeeles received the Rudder Award as the pair who overcame the biggest challenges in training. In fact all of the school’s 24 paddlers demonstrated amazing, gutsy resilience as well as fine spirits and excellent humour over that long weekend – not to mention through our Guildford races prior to that and the national ‘Waterside’ competitions used as preparation events along various water stretches in Wiltshire and Berkshire.
The Cranleigh squad comprised: Phoebe Bagge & Georgia Beaumont; Julian Browning & Henry Graham-Rack; Angus Cameron-Blackie & Tom White; Abi Camsey & Becky Hennell; Abigail Doherty & Kitty Cahill; Sam Foster & Will Yeeles; Imara Gluning & Rachel Lubbock; Seb Haddock & Oli Parker; Max Hemming & Alex Livingstone; Hattie McKenna & Tish Montgomerie; Nick Kelly & Ed Roberts; with teachers Stuart Block & Hannah Warner. Our especial thanks go to coaches Peter Morley and Roy Briggs for all they did: and to JCEM for all his amazing logistics work!