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

Waterlands Marathon 2014 – Report


A development team of 8 K1 men, 4 K1 junior men and 1WK1 were selected to take  part in the 42nd running of the Waterlands canoe marathon. The team was chosen following the Elmbridge Assessment race on 16 March.


The race consists of one loop of the canal system essentially starting and finishing in the vicinity of Viking Canoe Club. The race has two starts one for senior men and veterans, for a 23km course with two portages and the other start for juniors and women for a 14km course. The second start is just after the first portage on a wide section of waterway.

The  race for the senior and veteran men contains two portages , one after 7 kilometers in the town of Monnickendam and a second portage close to the town of Ilpendam. The race starts on a wide section of canal about 2km from the canoe club. The course then follows several canals which vary in width and depth. The first portage is relatively simple round a canal lock. The second portage at Ilpendam is unique because the Dutch wetlands requires participants to land their boats on to the shore before continuing through the marshy meadow. The route then passes through the shallow waters of a nature area before heading back to the main deeper canal and back through the start line and on to the finish near the canoe club.


The quality of the senior K1 field was impressive with Ramalho (Portugal) Alonso, Merchan, Rodriguez (Spain) all having been world marathon champions or medallists. There were also paddlers from Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Hungary and of course the Netherlands. Quite an opportunity for domestic competitors to line up in such a quality field. With approval from the BCU Marathon Committee the race is within reach, distance and ability, of many of our marathon competitors.

The senior/veterans start was a 60 boat+ affair. A fast start being a must. A large front group formed with all the main protagonists present. Romalho and the Spanish led through the first portage with many of our team hot on their heels. The race continued on to the second portage with much the same situation at the head of the race. A large front group, 10 or so boats, stayed together with others not far behind. Romalho had the lead on the wide canal on the way to the finish. The Spanish launched several attacks but failed to get past and the front group splintered as they approached the finish line. Romalho 1st, Merchan 2nd, Rodriguez 3rd, and Alonso 4th. The stand out result for our team was Magnus Gregory, an U16 junior , coming in 12th place 39 seconds behind the winner. Also Nick Romain, first year senior, was 14th just a few seconds behind Magnus. Magnus performed well at the Elmbridge assessment race and the selection committee offered him the opportunity to race with the seniors at Waterlands which he grabbed in no uncertain terms and really did himself proud along with his support team at Longridge Canoe Club.

In the junior race we had 4 competitors. They all made a strong start and Kayne settled into the front group with our other juniors not far behind. A mishap at the portage detached Kayne from the leaders and joined him with the second group with Luke and James with Trevor not far behind. The trio of Kayne, Luke and James chased hard and finished just 27 seconds behind the leading three. A good effort by all four boys.

The ladies race had mixed fortunes for the UK paddlers. Lizzie Broughton and Leanne Brown, both private entries, got away well. Emma got caught up in a congested start crash and ended up in the water. She got back into her boat and paddled strongly and went through the field to finish in 8th place. Lizzie took the win with Leanne in 3rd.


Viking Canoe Club ran a good race. Excellent hospitality no stress with late comers wanting to race and the facilities of the club open to all. They did a great job enticing top paddlers to make a very competitive club international race. One to put on everybody’s calendar.

Edwin de Nijs deserves special mention. He laid on a guide to take us round the course so we could recce the portages and main features prior to the race, thanks to Paul Hoekstra for the trip round. Edwin also arranged our evening meals in a local restaurant with athlete food, a must before the race!!


An excellent event, good competition, with 28 or so competitors from the UK taking part. Viking Canoe Club run the race annually and are very welcoming to overseas competitors…..put it on your list of races for 2015.

Thanks go to the MRC for the opportunity to take part in a top class development race, the MRC volunteer staff for the event, Viking Canoe Club and particularly Edwin. Last but not least the paddlers who all raced well and did the team proud.


Magnus Gregory
Albert Hicks
John o’Grady
Sam Plummer
Nick Romain
Shaune Walsh
Mark Wilkes
Paul Yates

Luke Bowyer
James Russell
Trevor Thompson
Kayne Wilkinson

Emma Horner

Melvin Swallow (Team Leader)
Sarah Akerman
Phil Gunney (Phil’s photos can be found on the Viking Canoe Club website and Facebook Page….a selection of action shots!!)
Dave Sackman

The results can be found following this link:

M Swallow 24 April 2014.




Racing and Buoyancy Aids

Those racing Waterside B at the weekend will be required to wear buoyancy aids by the race organisers.

The Marathon Racing Rules for Competition clearly state that Race Organisers have the final say as to whether buoyancy aids shall be worn, and who must wear them. The penalty for breaking this or any safety rule is disqualification.

Race Organisers may ask any competitor not complying with these requirements to withdraw, before or during the race, and to refuse to record that competitor’s time. If a paddler refuses to leave the course, he or she may be referred to the MRC for consideration of further disciplinary action, as their decision will have implications for the organisers’ ability to support the other competitors.

Our events are dependent on the consent of governing bodies like the Canal & Rivers Trust, and BCU insurance stipulations. The paddling community must ensure that these events are not put at risk by individuals ignoring the rules and race organisers.

MRC Committee meeting 1st Feb 2014

Full minutes will be posted after they have been agreed at the next meeting. Here is a précis of the meeting held on 1st Feb:

1. Syllabus of Racing Coaching for both marathon and sprint disciplines being looked at by Ollie Harding in conjunction with SRC and Russell Smith of Canoe England.

2. Some changes have been made to the HRM program.
a. Scotland now shown as 2 regions.
b. Expiry date of BCU membership can now be entered, meaning that an up-to-date membership does not need to be re-checked.

3. Agreed that paddlers promoted by more than 2 divisions will not score Hasler points (i.e. being promoted from 9 to 6) – this to ensure new paddlers are entered into a suitable division in the first place.

4. 2014 Racing Handbook sent out to all Race Organisers. Accompanying letter can be read here.

5. BCU grant has been confirmed at £25,000. Spanish training camp has been removed from budget, so numbers going to Waterlands will be doubled.

6. Development training – several training events taking place in the regions. Water conditions mean problems for assessment/selection. Agreed that paddlers need to compete wherever possible in regional events. Coach endorsement needed for Gent.

7. 2014 MRC meetings:
a. April 11
b. Annual Consultative Meeting Worcester 23 August
c. November 15

Racing behaviour, and the image of our sport

Unfortunately there have been a number of issues that have arisen at Marathon events recently that are bringing our sport a bad name.

An incident at the Hasler final involving two senior crews potentially put spectators at risk, as well as resulting in the race organisers having to disqualify a crew.

This particular matter was appealed to the MRC and overruled.

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.

Race organisers often let spectators quite close to the portage action and following this recent incident perhaps need to review whether a larger ‘buffer area’ may need to be made between competitors and the viewing areas laid out, particularly at portages where running speeds are fast.

It is not only however competitors that have been stretching the acceptable boundaries. Another incident recently involved support crews in violent disagreement.

There is a precedent for disqualifying crews for the behaviour of the support crew.

At the marathon worlds in Canada in 2000 the ICF disqualified a senior women’s K2 crew because their coach had disobeyed instructions as to his behaviour in the portage area. His crew were disqualified from the silver medal position. He was sacked from his position as Polish coach when he got home!

We expect support crews to behave properly and if they do not then their crew can be sanctioned. If a crew is disqualified because of their support crews actions they will know where the blame lies.

It should not go un noted that for very serious breaches of the rules harsher sanctions beyond disqualification from the event could apply.

Please race responsibly!

Stan Missen, MRC Chair

MRC Committee meeting 23 November 2013

The main points discussed at last week’s MRC all-day committee meeting were as follows. Full minutes can now be downloaded here

1. Regional Marathon Advisers: There has been some confusion about the election process for this role, so Mick Nadal, regional coordinator, will be contacting all RMAs and club secretaries to help all regions to understand the system and implement it. MRC would like to see nominations for the post in September/October with appointment from January 1st

2. K2 racing: it was agreed to keep the current K2 rules for another year in light of the limited feedback received.

3. Buoyancy in boats: a new rule for boat buoyancy was agreed and will be incorporated into the marathon rules published on the website and in the Racing Handbook in the New Year.

4. Surf skis: it was agreed to allow single surf skis of a recognized design to compete in Hasler races for an experimental period of one year.

5. Late entries at races: a request had been received to have pre-entries only at Hasler races. It was agreed that if clubs wished to implement this at their own races that was fine, as long as they advertised the fact clearly in the race details.

6. Club Team Leaders: The committee agreed that it is to everyone’s benefit if each club names a Team Leader at an event, who can do the HRM entry for the club’s paddlers, deal with all enquiries and do the checking in on the day. This would help the race organisers enormously.

7. The committee is looking at a way of speeding up the check on BCU membership.

8. Hasler Qualification:
– It was agreed that paddlers in Combined Services need only complete 2 races to qualify for the Hasler Final.
– It was agreed that paddlers must complete 3 races to qualify, not just enter them.
– Scotland is shown as one region on the HRM program where it should be 2. This will allow 4 clubs in total from Scotland to attend the final.
– Mick Nadal will recalculate number of clubs qualifying per region in 2014 according to number of active marathon clubs in 2013.

9. Hasler Final: It was agreed to remove the amalgamation rule from the Hasler Final. In case of inquorate races, the paddlers concerned will be notified beforehand that they need to transfer to another race for which they are eligible.

10. National Championships: Richmond has offered to supply a trophy for the mixed race at the National Championships. It was agreed to change this race to a National Championships class.

11. Athlete Development sub-committee will be formed – Dyson Pendle (chair), Ollie Harding, Roland Lawler, James Smythe and Dan Golder. Tom Daniels to be co-opted.

12. James Smythe will take on the maintenance of the website, Roland Lawler with help from Jim Rossiter, will co-ordinate the Hasler Final.

13. The selection committee will be as follows: Alan Laws (chair), David Enoch, Roland Lawler, Dyson Pendle, Melvin Swallow, Dan Golder and the Team Manager from each event.

14. The athlete development sub-committee will be drawing up a programme of events which will be advertised on the website in good time.

15. The international programme and budget were discussed at length. The World Championships held in USA in 2014 will be expensive, especially in boat transport, which means that care needs to be taken over other expenditure. World Cup 2 in Spain has yet to be confirmed.

16. Late season development trip: The usual event chosen for this clashes with the Hasler Final in 2014, so alternatives will be arranged.

17. National Championship 2014: Worcester has all in hand.

18. Hasler Final: Richmond presented an outline of arrangements.

19. Assessment races: dates for races agreed and will be advertised as soon as agreement reached with race organisers.

20. Website: a new website will be going live soon.

21. Mini K2s: agreed that liaison needed with SRC to ensure that mini K2 dimensions are standard across the 2 disciplines.

22. Lightning certificates: the MRC will be holding a competition to find a new design for the Lightning certificate.

23. Paddler behaviour: the committee received several complaints after the Hasler Final and the National Championships about the language and behaviour of paddlers during races. This will be kept under serious review. Race organisers will be asked to keep careful note of any complaint received.