The event this year was held at Bouchemaine, near to Angers in the Loire valley, on the River Main. The event was held over the weekend of 26/27 September. The French organisers kindly invited us back after having attended their 2012 and 2013 championships.
The team was made up of u16 and u14 athletes, 6 boys and 8 girls, and four staff. We decided this year to race the athletes in the higher age categories so the u16’s raced in the u18 events and the u14’s in the u16 races. This was to ensure as far as possible that our athletes had good quality racing. It seems that the French marathon system is not as challenging as the UK system. As can be seen from the results the UK divisional system provides a challenging environment which particularly benefits our junior athletes.
The team travelled in two minibuses with one trailer meeting up a Wey Kayak Club on Thursday afternoon. Once the boats were loaded on the trailer and the athletes assigned to the minibuses, to match the ferry booking, we set off for Portsmouth and the overnight boat to St Malo. Off the boat early next morning for the three hour or so drive to the event meant we arrived late morning. Dropped the trailer at the course and had a quick look at the river/portage and general layout albeit the infrastructure was being set up.
The team checked into the hotel 15 or so minutes away from the course. Hotel Kyriad at Ponts de Ce. We were on a two night stay and the hotel provided breakfast and dinner. The hotel proved to be more than adequate. Motel type rooms, quiet with sufficient facilities and the meals exceeded expectation. The making of a happy team!! Well-fed and watered!! On the two race days lunch was provided at the course which again was more than adequate.
The return trip would be overnight boat from Caen to Portsmouth and onward to Wey Kayak Club.
After having had lunch the group returned to the course and were able get on the water to check the course out. The course was essentially a 5km lap with a portage at the end of each lap except for the last lap which was straight to finish. The race set up was good emulating what would be found at major championships. The portage was 100m or so grassed portage with a feeding lane and pontoons at each end. The pontoons could be accessed from both sides for racing. It was clear that the right hand side of the out pontoon was favourable but the left side whilst a little slower gave an advantage at the get in end. The left side being clear most of the time. The river was wide and deep with some flow. The section through the portage and finish area on the upstream leg had to be paddled straight up the middle of the river as the bend would have meant a significant increase in distance if taking shelter from the bank. Further up the course the river swept the opposite way such that taking shelter from the bank was the way to go.
The racing started in the early afternoon on Saturday. The first races for our group were the U16 boys and girlsK2’s followed in the afternoon, 16:00, starts the U18 boys and girls K2’s. All our crews fared well with podium positions in both girls k2 races and the U16 boys and a 4th position in the U18 boys K2.
Sunday brought the K1 races for our team and greatly increased fields. There had been mixed K2 classes for the juniors and cadets on the Saturday which were well populated. The U16 races were in the first starts, 09:30, and the U18 races in the second starts, 13:00.
The U16 boys had 50+ and the girls 30+ starters. The U18 boys had 40+ and the girls 20+….good sized fields for our development athletes to compete in.
The Competition Experience
The French ran their championships very much on the lines of what would be encountered at a major championships…..
- 100 m portage with feeding lane
- Boat and athlete control to get on to the water for the racing
- Course umpires at turns and portage
- Boat weighing for the first four boats in each class
- Doping control (none of our athletes were called)
- Formal podium prize giving
This coupled with working with team staff and the group as a whole gave our young athletes a good insight of what it would be like at a major championships.
The medal highlights for our group were:
U16 Ladies K2 – 1st Freya Peters (RIC)/Samantha Martyn (WEY); 2nd Hafsa Kabeer (LON)/Harriet Quigley (WYC)
U16 Mens K2 – 2nd Fred Kemp (RDG)/Tim Dowden (RLS)
U18 Ladies K2 – 1st Florence Duffield (NOR)/Bronte Holden (FOY); 2nd Eloise Hall (LBZ)/Emma Russell (CLM)
U16 Ladies K1 – 1st Freya Peters (RIC); 3rd Harriet Quigley (WYC)
U18 Mens K1 – 1st Joe Hansell (B3C)
U18 Ladies K1 – 1st Emma Russell (CLM); 3rd Samantha Martyn (WEY)
The full results can be viewed at:
There is a French club video which has glimpses of some of our paddlers and excellent coverage of the starts and the portage can be viewed at:
The full team was:
Flo Duffield (NOR)
Freya Peters (RIC)
Eloise Hall (LBZ)
Harriet Quigley (WYC)
Samantha Martyn (WEY)
Hafsa Kabeer (LON)
Bronte Holden (FOY)
Emma Russell (CLM)
Joe Hansell (B3C)
Arthur Urquhart (BAN)
Matthew Callow (LBZ)
Finn Cadell (LGW)
Tim Dowden (RLS)
Fred Kemp (RDG)