Yesterday’s season-opening Waterside A time trial saw 328 boats racing over the renowned 14-mile course that serves both as an indicator of early-season GB team form, and who may be potential DW challengers.
As usual there were schools and services crews, many with literally weeks of paddling experience under their belts, racing alongside top club paddlers, world championship medallists and DW winners. This gives the race a unique character, along with the time-trial starts, 19 slippery portages and one of the Kennet & Avon Canal’s famous low bridges. Mild temperatures and a tailwind made for good conditions this year, and much faster times than the ice of 2015.
If there was a stand-out performance among the four or five records that fell on the day, it arguably came from Richmond CC’s Lizzie Broughton. The world championship silver medallist and reigning DW champion took 6 minutes off the previous women’s K1 best to set a mark of 1h48, a record which may stand for a long time, unless she betters it herself.
The men’s K1 record has been beaten by small increments in previous years, with Tim Pendle shaving seconds off the previous best back in 2013. This time however, Keith Moule and Chelmsford had a plan. Backed up by the very fast K2 of Matt Johnson and Pete Wilkes, Keith was able to lower the previous record by two minutes and set a new time of 1h37.
In the junior women’s K2, two crews finished inside the current record time. Falcon’s Kate Clark and Emma Hield took 2 minutes off it to record 2h01, but were bettered on the day by Wey’s Sam Martyn and Sophie Thompson who took a further two and a half minutes to set the new bar at 1h58. The next generation are looking up to the challenge of maintaining GB’s track record of top juniors at world level.
The junior K2 race was won by the mixed crew of Bronte Holden and Dan Palmer of Fowey CC, possibly the first time this feat has been achieved and also possibly a junior mixed K2 record (although there isn’t one on file)
Finally, the junior men’s K1 record fell to Charlie Smith of Leighton Buzzard, who shaved 20-odd seconds off the previous best to record 1h46. Clubmate Sam Plummer had set a comparable time in 2014 but with that race finishing early, this one looks to be the new benchmark.
The top K2s look set to provide an interesting and close DW race this year. If Johnson and Wilkes choose to focus on GB selection, the fastest of the rest were Freddie Purcell of Richmond and Rodrigo Hortal Garcia, an ex-international Spanish kayaker now based in Cambridge, finishing in 1h40. Three and a half minutes behind were Beazley/Smythe of Bishops Stortford and Leaside, setting a new veterans’ K2 record of 1h44 just ahead of Richmond’s Baker/Irvine. However DW isn’t won on a 14 mile dash, and the highly experienced crews of Maycock/Turner and Hinves/Kent are also showing enough form to challenge on the day, and the mixed crew of Jordan/Brown are looking good in that class. LBZ’s Sam Plummer set a fast time in the K1 and may be keen on a new DW challenge this year, after finishing 2nd last time out.
As usual the race was impeccably organised, and thanks to the Waterside Series, Newbury CC and Marsport for their efforts.