In near perfect paddling conditions, last Sunday saw a nervous, apprehensive but excited group of paddlers gathered in a small village somewhere in the heart of Wiltshire for their first national level race of the 2016 season.

The Waterside A was fully booked weeks ago, with over 600 boatsWaterside February racing the 13.5 mile course down the Kennet & Avon to Newbury. The organisers anticipated a fast, exciting race, but I suspect even they were surprised as longstanding course records tumbled by the wayside.

Cranleigh were no exception with Dan Plewman & Jemima Young breaking the record for the school’s fastest boat by just under 2 minutes, and Helly Bridgen and Sophie Thornton-Wood (photo courtesy of Mr G Strickland) setting a newWaterside A all girls’ crew record.

Max House and Hugo Fortescue just missed out on bettering big brothers record, but as this is their first season – watch this space. Ben Strickland and Ali Loedolff broke their tiller and ran the final 6.5km whilst carrying their boat and paddles but still managed to record a very respectable time.

Then there was “the pack”. Kayaking is often considered to be an individual boat sport, but there are a lot of opportunities to work together with other crews, to use tactics and science to improve your own performance , so it was fantastic to see Cranleigh crews working together on the river, putting their training to good effect  and pulling each other along.

The support crews are vital to this sport and often experience more challenges and difficulties than the paddlers. The tow path this year resembled a mud bath; many of us ended up sliding into the hedges and lots of punctures and a stranded car all added to the mix.

As always, many thanks to Mr Leggitt for all his support and hard work, to Pete and Roy for their support and encouragement and to Jim (new to the team) for his assistance with minibus, driving and trailer.

Jemima Young & Daniel Plewman          2:16:10  – NEW SCHOOL RECORD

Sophie Thornton-Wood & Helly Bridgen 2:43:38 – NEW SCHOOL RECORD – K2 Girls

Max House & Hugo Fortescue                  2:20:41

Ben Strickland & Alastair Loedolff           2:22:16      [T-Bar, run 6.5km]

Jack Taylor & Rupert Wilson-Harris         2:28:40

Oscar Stew & Fred Norton                        2:28:51

Chantelle Phillips & Tim Stickland             2:29:31

Linda Baily