England Racing Skills Day hosted at Worcester Canoe Club

Worcester Canoe Club in partnership with British Canoeing are delighted to be running a racing skills day on Saturday 17 March 2018 at Worcester Canoe Club.

(link to registration form)

This is the second of the Racing Skills Programme (RSP) days. The first Racing Skills day which took place at Reading Canoe Club last month was a great success with coaches, athletes and parents coming away from the day very positive. The whole idea of the RSP is to encourage those athletes who love to paddle whether it be in Sprint, Marathon, WWR, Paddle Ski etc and who would like to develop their skills in different environments whilst meeting different paddlers and coaches to learn from each other.

Racing skills looks to bring coaches, athletes and parents together to share knowledge and to allow those to be better informed to aid the growth of the young paddler in a fun and inventive way. This day will mostly be aimed at athletes aged 12-18 years old.

There is no one way to develop talent and with the knowledge within the room, there could be a coach who could help you with any thoughts or challenges you may have as a club coach.

The Theme of the day:

For Coaches and Athletes
Training zones – What are we trying to achieve by training at different training zones?

What would different sessions look like and how do you know if you are achieving the desired outcome for each of your sessions? This 2 hour workshop will give you an 18 month update to your CPD.


There will be a 45 min presentation once the athletes have started their 1st Session.

Please see here for information on the upcoming racing skills day and please click here for more details about the England Racing Skills Programme, to register an interest in this day please use the online registration form.

Any questions relating to the England Racing Skills Programme should be directed to Mark Hoile (Talent Pathway Manager – Canoe Sprint), or contact Daniel Thompson for any administrative questions you may have.

England Racing Skills Day, 13th January, Reading CC

The racing skills day at Reading Canoe Club has been rescheduled to Saturday 13 January 2018.

Reading Canoe Club in partnership with British Canoeing are delighted to be running a racing skills day on Saturday 13 January 2018 at Reading Canoe Club.

Racing skills looks to bring coaches, athletes and parents together to share knowledge and to allow those to be better informed to aid the growth of the young paddler in a fun and inventive way.

Racing skills is open to those coaches, parents and athletes who wish to compete in racing kayaking or canoeing. It will mostly be aimed at U13 upwards.

Please see here for information on the upcoming racing skills day and please click here for more details about the England Racing Skills Programme, to register an interest in this day please use the online registration form.

Any questions relating to the England Racing Skills Programme should be directed to Mark Hoile (Talent Pathway Manager – Canoe Sprint) (mark.hoile@britishcanoeing.org.uk).’

Gent Marathon 2017

The 2016 Gent Marathon will be held on 25th March next year, and each year the Marathon Committee uses this race as an opportunity to give promising young athletes aged between 14 and 17 a first experience of racing abroad as part of a national team.

If you would like your child/athlete to be considered for this event, please complete the application form below.

Team invitations are based on the criteria in this document. The key is to actively participate in local and regional training days and races throughout the winter, such as winter series, hare & hounds, duathlons etc.

Fill out my online form.

Report – Junior Development Trip to French National Championships


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.

Race Preparation

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)

Team Staff

Melvin Swallow

David Sackman

Katie Williams

Jenny Swallow

National Marathon Training Group standards

The upcoming series of assessment races will also be used to choose athletes to invite to future National Marathon Training Group events. Achieving a certain Handicap performance at an assessment race will ensure you a place in this group for the next year; a selection to the GB team for a major international ensures a place for the next two years.

Please also read the recently published guide to assessment as it contains useful tips for athletes and coaches on how to reach the GB team in marathon.

World Champion level 8 9 10 0 1 2
Range of 2014 GB Worlds team 8-10 8-10 14 1 2 3-4
Range for other 2014 GB internationals 10 11 14 2 3-4 5-6
Level required for National Training Group 13 13 16 5 5 8
World Champion level 16 EST 17 EST 18 EST 8 9 10
Range of 2014 GB Worlds team N/S N/S N/S N/S N/S N/S
Range for other 2014 GB internationals N/S N/S N/S N/S N/S N/S
Level required for National Training Group 21 22 23 13 13 16

Great Britain Marathon Team Assessment Process

(or… how to earn yourself a GB vest)

If you want to earn yourself a GB vest some time in the future, then you need to do as many assessment races as you can, starting early in your career (even when you might not yet be very competitive).

The bulk of these races usually happen in May and June, because that’s when we need to be assessing athletes for Great Britain teams to the World Cup and European Championships. These internationals, and the assessment races, then allow us to choose our best team for the World Championships in September.

Assessments play an important role in all of the MRC’s international objectives: winning medals of course, and maintaining our position as a top nation, but also ensuring the long-term athlete development required for international success. For developing athletes, they provide a chance to learn by racing world class competitors, and understand what needs to be done to reach a similar level. We also use them to invite prospective future international athletes into the national training group, depending on the standards achieved.

Athletes should discuss their approach to assessment races with a coach. It’s important to be physically and mentally ready to take on the challenge as these are the fastest races in the country, but nobody gets to the top of the canoe racing mountain without starting from the base.

Here are some common sense bits of advice for those seeking international selection in marathon:-

1. Race assessment races as soon as you can in your career. The most successful athletes have almost always done several assessments in more than one season before their first selection. Junior women’s and C1 races are just a little further than a Div 4 race, junior men’s just a little further than a Div 3.

2. Do as many assessment races as possible. They follow the international race format so are good experience. And the more you do, the better your profile in the continuous assessment process. Other races (apart from the major internationals themselves) don’t count towards assessment.

3. Don’t expect to earn a GB vest with just one result. We run several assessment races to allow athletes to show more than one result, and results from different races can be benchmarked against the Handicap points system for a fair and impartial comparison of results.

4. Be realistic about your expectations, remember the winners of these races are very often international medal winners. And finish, no matter how badly your race may be going. You would be surprised how many places you can gain simply by reaching the finish line, and the experience of the distance is important.

5. Race hard, as even first place may not be enough. For the world championships this year we expect to have 16 athlete places. If we could afford to take up 2 boats in each class we’d need to send more than double this number. Selectors have lots of evidence of how fast international races are, so for example a men’s C1 in a domestic assessment would need to complete the course about as fast as our women’s K1s in order to gain a comparable result internationally. The Handicap points system can even help us to make a comparison between men’s and women’s K1 performances.

6. Whatever you do, fill in an availability form by the deadline. You wouldn’t believe how many people miss out on a selection because they just haven’t told the selectors that they’re available for an international race.

Gent Marathon 2015

Saturday 28 mar saw the annual Blaarmersen Marathon, a race around the historic town of Gent in Belgium. Once one of Europe’s main trading ports, Gent is criss-crossed with waterways, making for both an interesting race course and a scenic one, should you have time to look up from the task in hand.

For the ninth successive year we invited a team of young athletes to take part in this race as a development experience, hopefully towards a place in the full international team in future. Most were racing abroad for the first time, and for some it was even a first venture into foreign soil.

The team met early at Elmbridge on the Friday morning, the early start being more of a problem for parents needing to get back to work by 9am. We then travelled in three minibuses down via a stop at Maidstone, to Folkestone for the Channel Tunnel. By 3pm we were in Gent and starting a recce of the race course.

The Koninklijke Cano Club Gent (or Gent Royal Canoe Club) is set on the side of a 2000m regatta course, with the river Leie flowing in and out of either side. The stepped concrete sides make for fairly bouncy conditions, and together with cloud, rain and a chilly wind we knew this would be a very British sort of race.

Races started around midday on the Saturday. Under 16s went off first for a 12km race, starting with half a lap of the regatta course, a trip round the river Leie via the town, and back onto the lake for a final half lap. Our U16 boys team featured Fowey’s Matt Collinge, Tim Gannicott-Porter and Juan Gearing of Chelmsford, Arthur Urquhart of Banbury, and Joe Webb of Richmond CC, racing against 13 Belgian and German competitors plus one from Medway Racers in the UK (Kim Hollman). A strong first lap of the regatta course followed by the first portage 2000m in put paid to the boys from German clubs Mulheim and Duisburg, and Joe Webb comfortably led away a group of four Brits, including Juan, Tim and Arthur. This was to be the finishing order after an hour’s racing, with a spread of only 30 seconds from first to fourth, the first of the Germans being nearly two minutes back.

Our U16 girls should have been racing two German and one Belgian competitors but for various reasons the Germans didn’t arrive, and the Belgian girl started with the boys race. Despite the hosts failing to show, our girls set about the task of beating each other, and a cagey first lap saw a large group together into the first portage. As usual this offered a decisive break, with Madi Barnicoat and Lucy Hield of Falcon getting away with Emma Russell of Chelmsford. Maia Wallman of Royal and Sam Martyn of Wey formed a chasing pair, with Sophie Thomson of Wey, Maia Wallace-Loizou of Leaside, Eloise Hall of Leighton Buzzard, Lucy Tozer of Wey and Harriet Quigley of Wiltshire Youth following. This proved to be a close race with only three minutes between first and ninth; Emma Russell won by 23 seconds from Madi, in turn 15 in front of Lucy.

The U18 races over 18km included an extra lap of the river Leie. The boys race, also a Belgian team marathon assessment race, featured the excellent Daan Cox of Belgium’s dominant club Neerpelt (which has produced sprint and marathon world medallists in recent years). Our racers were David Stubbs and George Harris of Falcon, and Chris Carson of Wey. David managed to get away with the Belgian Cox, and pull out a huge five minute lead; he was beaten by 30 seconds in the end but this was certainly one of the star performances of the trip. George finished a good fourth despite swimming and beat Chris into fifth in a sprint finish.

Our U18 girls were Ella Beatty of Bishops Stortford and Kate Clark of Falcon, racing in a fast start that included the senior and veteran ladies again as a national team assessment. Kate also fell in on the bumpy regatta course at the start of the race so lost a good deal of time, in the end finishing 4th junior; Ella managed an impressive third behind the Belgians Plas and Smeulders of Neerpelt. The overall start was won by Medway Racers’ Leanne Brown.

The team got back to Elmbridge later on Saturday evening, with many of the racers heading straight off to half term training camps or Hasler races on the Sunday. They were very ably supported by the staff team of Sarah Akerman of Wey, Katie Williams of Elmbridge, Phil Gunney of Wey and Tom Daniels of Longridge.

Full results can be downloaded here, with some photos here

Other than offering what is hopefully a good learning experience to the young athletes, this trip is also a good way for adult volunteers keen to get involved in the GB Marathon team to get first hand experience of managing and coaching the athletes. If you’d be keen to be part of the team for next year’s race please get in touch.

James Smythe, team manager

Handicap Score Calculator

The Elmbridge Handicap system is an extremely well-established way of benchmarking an individual’s performance level using one distance, and using it to predict their performance (and those of others) over other distances. The GB marathon team training group is using Handicap scores this winter as a way of helping athletes measure their current performance and set targets, but it can be applied to paddlers at all levels.

Click here for an Excel-based calculator, with instructions, that you can use to apply handicap scores to your own races or time trials.

Gent Marathon 2014

The MRC invites a small team of young athletes each year to take part in the Gent marathon in the Flanders region of Belgium. This 20km race is a considerable challenge for mostly aged under 16, and who for the most part are not yet ranked in division 3 or above which would give them regular experience of racing over this distance. In recent years, the race has also seen entries from the best Belgian juniors, including world and European junior medalists.

This year our team was comprised of the following athletes:-

JUNIOR MEN C1 Adrian Meikle-Briggs, Ben Phillips (both Richmond)

JUNIOR MEN K1 Matt Hayward (Norwich), Timo Morris (Falcon), Joe Petersen (Banbury), Ben Powell (Richmond), Harry Shearer (Norwich), James Smithson (Leamington), Declan Strong (Chelmsford), Josh Westwood (Wey), Owen White (Chelmsford) , Guy Willoughby (Addlestone)

JUNIOR LADIES K1 Charlotte Avery (Chelmsford), Rose Blackman (Gailey), Ava Dale (Falcon), Flo Duffield (Norwich), Bronte Holden (Fowey), Laura Ruff (Royal), Lily Wong (Richmond) and Rebekah Solway (Elmbridge)

Invitations are based on the commitment and performances observed at winter training days and local/regional time trials, which should have made this winter’s list tough to choose due to the high winds and flooding that disrupted our events throughout the winter. But when it came down to looking for performances, there was plenty to choose from with successful training days in several regions, races like the Essex Winter Series and Wey’s Hare & Hounds, early Hasler races and even the Watersides. In the event it was very difficult to reduce the list to 20 athletes who had not been invited to the race before.

This year’s race had been postponed from the usual late March to late May, which held the promise of better conditions than the driving snow and headwind of last year. Rain had been forecast but in the event it was suntan weather. The 12 mile race involved a lap of the Gent regatta lake, followed by two laps of the Leie canal which forms a loop around parts of the city.

With most of the team arriving that the course on Friday afternoon, we were able to paddle a lap of the river section to get a feel for the water and learn key parts of the course. The benefits of this might sound flimsy, but on this course the water gets very choppy behind a group, so sections of the course are easy to lose time or energy on, and others offer tactical advantage if you are familiar with them. It was telling that the four athletes who had exams on the Friday morning in the UK, and who had arrived too late to paddle the course on Saturday, suffered from both the stresses of the Friday and lack of preparation on the course.

The junior boys race start was second off, immediately after the senior men, and included the current Belgian national champion Daan Cox, and Niels Verduyckt, whose father Erik has his own well-stocked trophy cabinet. Josh Westwood (Wey) made a strong start with the Belgian Cox, and after a lap of the regatta course they had broken clear, with Verduyckt and Joe Petersen (Banbury) in pursuit, closely followed by Declan Strong (Chelsmford), Ben Powell (Richmond) and Timo Morris (Falcon)

The Belgian Cox was able to break away and win by a minute from Josh, with Verduyckt some 4 minutes back. Declan finished well in 4th, Joe 5th with Timo and Ben close behind in 6th and 7th.

The girls’ K1 race started with the boys’ C1 and senior women’s K1. On a bumpy course, Elmbridge’s Rebekah Solway quickly found her way to the front with a couple of Belgians and Chelmsford’s Charlotte Avery and Royal’s Laura Ruff. Rebekah used a quick first portage to break away from the group and establish a lead of over a minute by the finish.

The front runners at the first portage were closely followed by Ava Dale (Falcon), Rose Blackman (Gailey), Lily Wong (Richmond) and Bronte Holden (Fowey)

After a hard first lap of the bumpy water of the Leie canal the order had changed, with Rebekah ahead of Charlotte, followed by Lily, Rose and Laura.

At the front end of the race, Rebekah Solway managed to break away and win from a couple of senior Belgians, with Charlotte Avery the second junior and Lily Wong close behind in third, a highly impressive performance for a 14 year old. Rose Blackman followed in fourth and Laura Ruff fifth.

Adrian Meikle-Briggs and Ben Phillips (both Richmond) had a difficult job in their C1s on such a bumpy course which seemed at times to demand more steering than power on the stroke. They raced together to over half way, before Adrian managed to break away on the final lap.

The team travelled back to the UK on Saturday evening, and it was impressive to see so many of the athletes take part in Reading’s Hasler and assessment races the following day. The qualities of future international athletes are there for all to see.

Thanks very much indeed to the coaching and support team of Katie Williams, Claire and Phil Gunney, Sarah Akerman and Tom Daniels.

And extra thanks to Bruce Blackman and Ian Hayward, who volunteered to pick up the athletes taking exams and bring them all the way to Gent (or is it Ghent?) for the weekend. Your long drive, and short night’s sleep in a tent in a wet field was appreciated by the young athletes.


James Smythe, team manager

Racing behaviour, and the image of our sport


We sincerely hope that all competitors continue, as they do in the main, to conduct themselves, even in the heat of competition, in a responsible way. It is however evident that there is an increased amount of ‘pushing and shoving’ taking place at portages to gain advantage or put off the opposition. This is clearly unacceptable and events will be monitored and result in sanctions against crews where necessary.

Continue reading “Racing behaviour, and the image of our sport”