Easter weekend saw the School’s kayak squad gather at Dauntsey’s School in Wiltshire to take on the challenge of the annual Devizes to Westminster Race. This 125 mile, 77 portage odyssey, likened by many to a mountaineer taking on Everest, began smoothly and on time this year at 8am on Easter Friday in Devizes. A strong headwind on the first two days, and a slow moving Thames, meant that this wouldn’t be a year for breaking time records: nevertheless, Cranleigh paddlers rose to the occasion.
End of Day 1 saw all our Junior team crews in the top 20, a position they maintained throughout the race despite strong opposition. The crew of Rob Harrison and Laurence Fortescue spent all four days in a yoyo battle for 6th place with a highly experienced crew from Richmond Canoe Club: by day 3 they were still only seconds apart, leaving all to play for on the final day.
2:30 am (yes, you read that correctly…), with dawn still several dreams away, the crews prepared themselves for the final section on the Thames tideway. Camp was packed up, nervous breakfasts eaten, light sticks activated, torches switched on, ready for the off. By 5:30am, still in the dark, all our paddlers were heading off on the final leg of their adventure, witnessing the sun rise as they approached the capital.
The finish at Westminster was a welcome sight with the bridge and banks of the river full of supporters and friends.
As always, the paddlers owe a tremendous debt of thanks to their support crews who kept them fed and watered throughout the race, supplied changes of clothes to those who swam and generally encouraged, cajoled and “persuaded” exhausted crews onwards. This race isn’t possible without 100% commitment from those on the land so a massive thanks from the team management and crews. Thanks also to the Wey Canoe Club for their support and encouragement and to Peter Morley and Roy Briggs for their fantastic coaching. Mention must also be made of Mr Leggitt for all his work over the year on the admin he takes care of and his help over the Easter weekend itself; also to Mr Reed for helping out at the start of the race.
So, how did we do?
Cranleigh School won the Junior Team Trophy, beating Devizes Canoe Club by a margin of 3 hours.
We also won the Schools’ Team Trophy with a margin of 4.5 hours.
Abi Dahl and Noah Frett were the 2nd fastest mixed Junior crew (18th overall).
Rob Harrison and Laurence Fortescue held onto 6th place in the Junior section (second fastest Cranleigh time on record), with Alistair Loedolff and Dan Plewman in 14th and Aiden Steele and Ben Strickland 17th.
Jemima Young and Abbey Frett were 10th fastest ladies crew.
Our “endeavour” crew of Miss Coyle and Charlie Norton posted the 4th fastest finish in their class.
Well done to everyone.