Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race
At the end of a fairly successful Waterside and Thameside series of races, in a term characterised by storms, freezing conditions and snow, James L and Felix H found themselves at the start of the 125-mile Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race in blazing sunshine, with record temperatures forecast for the following four days of racing.
Aiming for a place on the podium, James and Felix were up against a field of 75 crews from clubs and schools including Seaford College, Kimbolton, Dauntsey’s, Cokethorpe, Marlborough and Royal Hospital School. One of the crews from Fowey Canoe Club was tipped to win the race by a country mile and there was also a strong crew from Devizes Canoe Club, so James and Felix knew they had a tough battle ahead.
Knowing that they were stronger on the canal section than the Thames section, the boys realised that they would have to make up as much time on the canal as possible to be within a chance of a medal. At the end of the first day, and after a gruelling 5 ½ hours in the sun, they were in second place with a 15-minute cushion to the second Fowey crew in third – a brilliant start.
By the end of the second day, the Bryanston crew had maintained 2nd place, although they had only gained another eight minutes. They were now racing on a very busy River Thames, with lots of pleasure boats against the Fowey crews who had grown up paddling on an estuary and were performing increasingly well.
The third day was a tough 38-mile paddle on a bumpy Thames, with very little flow. James and Felix paddled well, but the Fowey crew in 3rd place were marginally better on the water and closed the gap by a few minutes. James and Felix would be starting the fourth and final stage of the race with a 20-minute lead over 3rd place.
On the last day, the competitors were woken at 3am and the crews were on the water for a mass start at 5.30am to catch the tide. Both Fowey crews got off to a flying start, with James and Felix not far behind. As the competitors paddled through a quietly slumbering London, the Fowey crews edged away. However, 20 minutes is a lot of time to make up, and the Bryanston crew were not giving in that easily.
Just before 8am, James and Felix completed the race under Westminster Bridge in a fantastic 2nd place overall, having conceded only 3 minutes to the Fowey crew.
The race itself is no mean feat and to achieve such an outstanding performance is testament to their hard work, focus and dedication. A huge congratulations to James and Felix, we are immensely proud of you, and a heartfelt thank you to those who supported them.