Cranleigh’s kayaking squad (and current Schools’ National Champions) were in action again on Sunday at the International ‘Waterside A’ kayaking event. They were racing along the Kennet and Avon Canal through a 13.5 miles course that stretches along part of the eventual Devizes-Westminster route from Great Bedwyn in Wiltshire to Newbury in Berkshire: this challenge also involves an obstacle course of 21 portages (carrying the boat around weirs and locks) along the way.
The event is enormously popular (with 400+ boats competing) and attracts squads from many kayaking and canoeing sources including the Services and a good number of schools. The day proved as crisp and beautiful as could have been wished, though a doggedly frozen stretch of water a kilometre long made a particularly challenging addition for all the crews. Laurence Fortescue and Robert Harrison in their new ‘Mirage’ class boat finished first of all the school competitors (“Juniors”) – a remarkable achievement by the pair – completing the course in 2.18.01: a performance that promises much for the season’s remaining races. The rest of the team also fared well with Alistair Loedolff and Dan Plewman coming in at 2.26.26 (7th of all schools’ crews) and in the mixed doubles the new pairing of Abi Dahl and Noah Frett came in 2nd in their class – an admirable performance. Charlie Norton and Miss Eleanor Coyle proved a fine pairing on the day and Jemima Young and Abby Frett showed a valiant race too. Mr Strickland joined his son Ben for the race as an unexpected pairing and made it through with tremendously doughty spirit. Well done to all of the squad on this first Waterside. Next week an outing on the River Thames beckons (the ‘Thameside 1’ race) with another opportunity for the squad to prove their credentials.