Assessment Races and wash riding other classes

Please note – a recent assessment race has highlighted the need to be extra clear about wash hanging or interfering with any other boat or competitor who is not in your own class/race. Participants should already be very clear that anything that may be construed as interference, such as wash hanging or assisting another crew will result in disqualification of all involved, if proven.

The MRC selection committee’s recommendation is that when taking part in an assessment race, athletes being caught up by those in other classes should show good sporting behaviour by staying at least 3m clear, and giving up the racing line to avoid any suggestion that any advantage was gained by either party.

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

Superb results for young GB team at French Nationals

The results of this weekend’s French National Marathon Champs show some excellent results for our young GB  marathon development team. Full results can be found here, and a write-up will follow, but the medal-winning highlights 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)

European Marathon Championships – results summary

Congratulations to the GB team on their results at the European Canoe Marathon championships at Lake Bohinj in Slovenia, and especially to Mags Gregory, European Champion in the Junior Men’s K1 category, Zyggy Chmiel, silver medallist in the same race, and Lizzie Broughton, silver medallist in the Senior Women’s K1.

Full results are available at and a team manager’s report will follow, but to summarise:-

Gold – Magnus Gregory (Longridge)
Silver – Ziggy Chmiel (Nottingham)

7th – Jenny Illidge (Worcester)

6th – Sam Plummer (Leighton Buzzard)
8th – Nick Romain (Richmond)

Silver – Lizzie Broughton (Richmond)
5th – Fay Lamph (Wey)

11th – Keith Moule (Chelmsford)
13th – Jon Simmons (Wey)

4th – Zyggy Chmiel/James Russell (Chelmsford)
8th – Magnus Gregory/Luke Harding (Longridge) *including having their rudder broken by a falling Norwegian

4th – Fay Lamph/Lizzie Broughton

7th – Tim Pendle (Norwich)/Andy Daniels (Longridge)

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.