For clarity promotions can take place at non-divisional events. Such races are one of the few occasions that all divisions race over the same distances in the same conditions and are thus useful ‘leveller’ against which performances can be compared. Such races can also however be subject to adverse river levels and weather conditions which may be taken into account and mean that no promotions are appropriate.
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.
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.
The Waterways and Environment Team at British Canoeing are keen to educate paddlers on the risks of non native species in our rivers and canals and how best to prevent them spreading. Continue reading “Preventing the spread of non-native water species and disease”
The annual Race Organisers letter is sent out in February with the arrival of the new Racing Handbook, and outlines any changes in rules or guidance that organisers need to know about. With the recent discussion on the MRC’s desire to improve the fairness of starts, here is the section on guidance for starters:-
The ICF’s 2015 rulebook for marathon racing has been published and can be downloaded here.
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.
We will endeavour during the 2015 season to make starts, at all races, more fair and more consistent. New guidelines have been issued in the Year book for ALL starters. The aim is to provide consistency of application of the current rules that exist and particularly make competitors, who constantly ‘push the line’ and disobey Starters orders, aware of the penalties that they WILL suffer if they do not comply with instructions given. Please refer to the Handbook and the Race organisers letter for full details.
Richmond CC’s Lizzie Broughton has finished 2014 top of the ICF Canoe Marathon Rankings, after her silver medal at the World Championships and her win at the Waterlands Marathon (part of the ICF Classic Series) in April.
Tom Sharpe (also of Richmond) and Keith Moule (Chelmsford CC) were ranked joint 12th in the men’s list.
The ICF newsletter announcing the final tables also contains details of the ICF championships in the years ahead, and the 2015 series of classics. You can download it here.
Monday day one.
Met London Heathrow – team members arriving 50 minutes late which was not a good start….! Checked in but getting critical for boarding with time dwindling away. With most of the team through security, Stan and Tom have to take the bundle of long paddles to have them reopened and individually swabbed for explosives…now only 20 mins. remaining before close of boarding! Luckily following a rapid and sweaty run through the airport we make it! But did the paddles?
Long flight to Houston and then with two hours to change flights down to OKA international…. a number go off to find some more food and are only found as the doors for the flight are closing, another close call but we finally all board.
Arrive OKA, collect cars after being told that the missing two bags and other bundle of paddles will be coming on a later flight. Settle into apartments by 9pm local time, 3am UK time, after 18 hours of travelling.
Tuesday day two
Up early as expected and after breakfast a visit to the airport to collect the two remaining lost bags and all the paddles which were no longer in a bundle obviously having been torn apart in transit. Luckily all there! Travel to the course around 30 mins, weather, clear sky and getting hot. Unpacked boats and although there was some minor damage most were intact. With some assistance from the Nelo service team all in racing order by later in the day. Training paddle took place followed by a run for some. Very hot now and sun screen essential. Hydration will become a constant issue in the dry heat and constant breeze – now 86 degrees F .
Accommodation now full with other teams arriving and Masters Competition starting tomorrow.
Wednesday day three
Various training groups down to the course and some further boat maintenance, excellent on site lunch. Masters racing today. For those that watched them some useful information about the course and portage was gained. Windy but hot conditions persist.
Thursday day four
Another training day in between masters K2 racing, cooler in morning but again deceptive wind with rising temperatures to 88F. Lunch and team leaders meeting them back to apartments to collect all and return to course in heavy traffic for the opening ceremony.
Friday day five
First day of World Championships. Early start as Magnus and Zyggy K1 on at 9.00am followed by Elise at 9.03am. Sam RC paddling mid morning and after a few more shuttles back and forth, Sam P and Nick K1 at 2.45pm, in the worst heat of the day.
A live feed via the ICF website allows athletes from around the world to experience the racing first hand as events unfolded.
With a strong field it going to be a hard boys K1 race but our paddlers quickly established themselves in some large groups with Magnus towards the front and leading through the first portage. With a light wind and it being a little cooler paddling conditions were good. Zyggy was moving up through the field but slowly the race pace separated the groups. Final result Magnus 8th and Zyggy 10th with some valuable experience gained. Both paddlers should be pleased with their performances at this level.
Elise’s K1 race fielded some good quality paddlers and held a fast pace from outset. Elise established herself towards the front and paddled well to come a creditable final 8th place overall. Our aim was to field a team capable of top ten placing’s and we were on target. Well done Elise a great performance.
The U23 women’s race saw some mature and tactical paddling from Sam RC. Whilst the race pace was not high at times there was a high number of quality paddlers and things could change in a moment. Sam was not fazed as the pace of the leading group increased but continued to make some mature decisions to come in with a solid performance and Silver medal. A fantastic result.
Sadly things did not go so well for us in the U23 Men’s. With 20 minutes to go the guys were on the water but Sam had a pump problem so Melvin and I set to, to try and resolve things. Time was ticking away and it was complicated with the full foot plate which meant it was going to be a close call but with two and a half minutes to spare he was paddling to the start line….when the race was started early – something which should not happen at this level especially when all competitors where checked onto the water and it should have been obvious to the starter that they had one missing! A 200 meter deficit at the start is an impossible margin to make up but Sam paddled well pulling up places with each lap. Meanwhile Nick was looking strong and in a good position when the inevitable happened when boats are dragged at the portage and he removed his under stern rudder totally! After returning to the side a very quick replacement was fitted but too much ground had been lost. Sam finished 14th and Nick 20th reflecting on the events rather than ability. Both were understandably very disappointed.
Saturday day six
Another early leave after 6am get up. Traffic light and we were in to the course bathed in early morning sun….again, when does it rain here! It was obviously going to be very hot later so with lessons learned a cool box was acquired and ice to keep the drinks bags cool for the later races.
With the first races away at 9.00 the conditions were near perfect for the early races, sun, not too warm (by Oklahoma standards) but light breeze. First up were our two junior men’s K2′ s.
A large field of 21 boats saw a quick start with Jack and Ed nudging forward in the group after a fast start and looking strong. Luke and Magnus were holding there own with others but wide of the main pack. This turned out to be useful, as nearing the first turn Jack and Ed were involved in a scuffle and this resulted in a clash, loosing them valuable places.
Luke and Magus were able to avoid the problems arising from such a large group all jockeying for position to get to the best washes and move clear with the leaders.
Approaching the portage the leading group moved around again and Luke and Magnus found themselves being disadvantaged by a wrongly timed manoeuvre which could have resulted in a swim. Luckily they came through this but dropped back a little as a result. Portaging was swift and as expected there were some minor clashes and mistakes, with Luke and Magnus nearly loosing reach of their boat at one stage after the jump out, but still they maintained a comfortable lead over the other British crew who were struggling to make up the lost ground.
This was a fast race and at times hectic race. A very creditable performance from Luke and Magus coming in 8th with much valuable experience gained.
Jack and Ed held their place to finish 11th after the unfortunate incident in the early stages.
Next at 11.45 was senior women’s K1 – temperatures were rising not just because of the midday sun…..Lizzie was on a storm from the start and making her mark in this race! After the leading group reducing to just two she demonstrated some powerful paddling and excellent portaging edging her towards a certain medal – but could it be Gold or was it to be Silver – our hearts were in our mouths at one stage when Lizzie hit her under stern heavily on the joint between two pontoons which could have easily ended her day in disaster, but it survived and on her next passing a message was got to her to carry rather than drag her boat to protect from possible further damage, which she duly did! With the two boats together out of the last portage it could have gone either way but a powerful performance from the other paddler saw her edge away from Lizzie in the final meters – but a superb Silver medal and world class performance from Lizzie without doubt.
If Lizzie’s race was exciting, Keith and Ed’s kept us on the edge of our seats. Keith flew out from the start into a lead that surprised some of the world’s best paddlers! Ed had a strong start in a race that was always going to be dominated by the top paddlers……and what a performance with strong pace and great tactics up in the front group. Keith’s portaging was ultra fast with many commenting upon the sheer speed of his run! But he did not stop there with a constant and aggressive pace being set on the water too.
Both our paddlers finally settled into the second group with continued pressure being exerted all the time by Keith, who was obviously not content with racing his own group but prepared to make a real attempt to claw back the meters to the leaders. Superb commitment and gutsy performance from Keith with a sprint for his 7th position in the final meters to achieve a truly excellent result, he was followed by Ed with a creditable 10th.
Sunday day seven
Another early start the first car leaving at 7.15am and with very little traffic we were into the course in record time. Beautiful sunny morning, but rather warmer than before. Obviously another hot day to come. It was to climb to 94F later.
The first race was the Women’s Senior K2 with Sam RC and Amy off to a strong start and looking good from the line. Fay and Lizzie were also there and looking good. A strong and solid performance followed with other boats slowly falling off the leaders washes – but it was great to see our two boats right up there in the mix at the front. It was always going to be close at the end and our girl’s crew of Sam and Amy gave it all they had to be there right until the end sprint and collect a superb Bronze medal. Fay and Lizzie not disappointing with an excellent 4th placing not too far behind.
The final race of the championships – a very strong Senior Men’s K2 race which promised to be THE race of the weekend with anyone’s guess as to the winner. Tim and Andy were there in the leading group with Keith and Ed close by. The leaders and groups were moving around with Tim and Andy playing the washes very well and maintaining good position in some lovely V washes before falling back a little to lead the second group. They proceeded to break free before being re-joined in the later stages but seemed to have the pace to control those with them. Their portaging was swift and their position maintained. A creditable 6th final place was well deserved and commendable at this level. Keith and Ed’s race was cut short, with an early retirement following their efforts the previous day in their K1’s.
A surprise for us all in that we heard that Lizzie had won the World Ladies K1 Ranking trophy that was duly presented to her. A fantastic end to the weekend and achievement to be proud of.
The final Nations ranking for the competition revealed that we had come 4th – only one point behind the strong South Africa team.
An evening Bar- be- q round the pool with the South African team followed back at our apartments.
We returned the following day to Heathrow after another 20 plus hours travelling.
It was excellent to see a good group of Parents who attended the event to give support to our team.
Our thanks to Melvin who was out there competing in the Masters for his valuable assistance (and congratulations on his Gold Medal) and staff members Claire and Tom for giving up their valuable time and providing support to the team.
Stan Missen, Team Manager.