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.




Ranking List

Please click here for the latest Ranking List. It is stored in Dropbox, so you’ll need to open the link, then click the “Download” button to get the new Ranking List in Excel.

Race Organisers should copy this list into their RACMAN file a few days prior to the race, to ensure they are using the latest version.

For date of update, please see top row of ranking list spreadsheet.

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”

World Championships 2013 report

ICF: World Championships Marathon 2013 Copenhagen Denmark.
It was a three day programme starting Friday 20th September. We arrived Wednesday afternoon, our hotel was 10mins drive (not walking distance) from the course. The venue was excellent and the course was on Bagsvaerd lake which has been used before, although the finish line was a bit tight on the turn and portage.

Friday saw our junior K1 girls & boys competing first, Ed Haws (Wey) & Bruce Jones (Elm) in a large field of 44. Casper Pretzmann (DEN) looked to be favourite after winning both K1 & K2 at the Euro’s and medals at the Sprint Euro’s. A front group formed consisting of Casper, Peters, (Bel), Rice (SA), 2 Hungarians and 2 Portuguese, with Ed best placed in the next group and Bruce a group behind Ed. The pace was fast but with no real commitment by the leaders to get the group down to 4. This allowed Ed to keep in touch with the front of the race after the 1st portage and he stayed there for 2 laps, a good effort. The race was won by the Hungarian with Peters (Bel) 2nd, Hun 3rd , Casper (Den) disappointed in 4th after the Hungarians had done their work on him. Ed finished 12th, 4mins down and Bruce 21st at 6mins.

Amy Ward (Elm) and Sam Rees Clark (Bas) both got off to a good start in the front group. Amy was getting the rough end of the 2 Hungarians and consequently dropped at the portage. The race then strung out with 2 leaders Hun/SA, closely followed by Hun/GB (Sam) with Amy in no man’s land 5th, clearly not having a good time. We decided to pull Amy out saving her for the K2. Hun won over SA with Sam sprinting for the line for the bronze, the Hungarian narrowly getting the edge.

U23’s is a really competitive class with 17 women (Jenny Illidge, Run) and 31 men (Jonny Tye Wor and Tom Sharp Ric). These races are just as fast as the senior races, just I lap shorter. It also enables Friday’s athletes to compete in the Sunday K2 senior race with a rest day in between. Jen went for the long haul start doing her own thing until the first turn and came into the first portage with a group and chased the next group going out, getting 12th from 21.

In the mens race there was a string of good athletes from SA, Nor, Spain Bel, Hun and Den. The race was full on the whole time dominated by the SA’s, Birkett, and Van de Walt, and Morton Minde (Nor), (winner 2011) who blew out big time and retired. Jonny and Tom chased in the 2nd group and finished 2.30 mins down on the winner SA, Birkett with Van de Walt on his wash, Hamar (Nor) 3rd. Tom and Jonny are guys who can progress at this level.
Saturday programme; Junior girls/boys K2 (Amy/Sam), (Ed/Jack Childerstone), (Sam Plummer LBZ/Nick Romain Ric). Sam and Amy were really up for the K2, they were focused for the start, settled in a group of three off the start and came into the portage the same. After the get in, all three were chasing Hun who were going for gold, GB in hot pursuit leaving the Portuguese to follow. The race stayed like that until the last 1000Mts when the Danish crew made a brilliant effort catching the 3 placed boat to get the bronze. A silver for GB.

Jack & Ed started very well and hooked on the back of the large front group, leading was Casper (Den) doubling up from K1 the previous day but a bit nervous after the beating he received from the Hungarians. The Danish crew asserted themselves well and were strong throughout. Jack and Ed took advantage of the cat and mouse from the other crews dropping off and then paddling back to the front group, by picking those wash’s and finished only 30sec down on the winners Casper/Graversen Den, from Hun, then Spain. A very good 4th place. Jack & Ed have another year in this class and should be one of the front runners next time out. Nick and Sam had a good start and despite falling in at the bottom turn only finished 4 min’s down.

Senior men K1 Keith Moule (Clm) Edward Rutherford (Elm) 38 starters.
Another big field with quality athletes. Grant van Walt SA, (winner 2012 U23) Ivan Alonso Esp, (Winner 2012), Hank Mcgregor (winner 2011), Ramalho (2nd 2012), Rene Poulsen 500/1000Mt euro champion & 4th 1000mt worlds 2013) and Cylle Carre, France, another quality sprinter.

Poulsen blasted the start and held the lead to the bottom turn, the field split, with Poulsen, Mcgregor, Alonso, Ramalho and Carre forming a front group. Coming to the first portage the 5 were still setting the pace, but with a string of athletes in hot pursuit just a few seconds back including Ed with Keith another group back. The race stayed like that for another lap, but with so many good athletes within touch of the front group the race was any body’s with at least 10 in the mix. On the third portage Poulsen had blown a gasket and struggled over the run going backwards through the groups. Ed held his place and was looking good even relaxed over the portage, Keith also looked strong about a minute behind the front. On the 5th lap Poulsen revived and came back from about 500Mts down to challenge the lead. Ed made the most of Poulsen’s surge and hooked onto the front group. Poulsen then faded again and left the race finish to Mcgregor 1st, Alonso 2nd, Carre 3rd , and Ed finished 5th only 30sec down and Keith 14th at 2mins. My money had been on Ramalho (Port) because of how he dominated the race in the front group, attacking the portages, and stringing the race out. He capsized coming back up on the 5th lap and lost about 4 mins but still finished 11th, less than 2mins down. A good race by our boys.
Sunday Womens K2 (Lizzie Broughton Ric/Fay Lamph Wey and Mens K2 Tim Pendle Nor/ John Simmons Wey & Keith/Tom.

A really good start saw Fay & Lizzie form a front group of 5 which came into the portage together. The Hun, Den and CZE weren’t waiting for anybody, and a small gap opened and after 500mts was too big to chase down so our girls and the Spanish stayed as a pair. The race stayed like that until the finish apart from a group of 3 chasing our girls, Peters/ Broekx (Bel), Anderssen/Johnsson (Swe), and Cicali/Alberti (ITA), 3 really good crews. The pair held off the challenge, and our girls won the sprint over the Spanish for 4th.

The men’s was also super-fast, with the 2 Spanish boats (Merchan/Alonso), (Bouzan/Fernandez), Rubenstein/Sean Rice (SA) Poulsen/Larsen (Den), all wanting to take the lead for the 1st 2K. Our boys both got off well and were in a large front group at the turn, 12 boats strung out over 50Mts coming into the first portage. Leading out were Spain, Spain, SA, Hun, SA and Den with our boys just behind. Tim and John decided to switch sides at the get in because of the congestion on the right, the French doing the same but clearly had rudder problems going out and had to retire. The next time round the Spanish clearly wanted to be on their own out in front and went about their business, chasing were SA & Hun. Keith & Tom were well positioned just behind the pack with Tim & John. Tim & John clearly had a problem with their rudder going out for the 3rd lap. Next time round at the 3rd portage the Spanish were away 30sec ahead of Rubenstein/Rice and the Hungarians and a chasing 3 containing Poulsens boat. Keith and Tom were next followed by Tim and John who came in for boat maintanance (bent rudder), the rudder was catching on the bottom of the boat making steering almost impossible. Straightening the rudder was almost a waste of time with the blade ending up on the deck with the slightest touch meaning the end of the race for Tim and John. (Gutted). The race never changed from this point, only to decide which Spanish crew was going to take gold and the other the silver. It was Merchan/Alonso then Bouzan/Fernandez and Hun in 3rd, Keith & Tom finished 12th, 4mins down, an excellent race for them.

Just worth mentioning for those who train using pace per 1000Mts. Taking sub 4 mins as a reasonable time for a 1000mts, these guys, (Spain on their own, 2 boats) did the race including 7 portages and 15 turn points in 2:00:59. A quick calculation gives you 4min per 1000mts covered for the whole race!

Summary: Although only 1 medal gained the team as a whole performed well with so many just outside the medal places, confirming our domestic racing is at a reasonable standard and only requires raising our standard a little to find those medal places. We felt all aspects of our arrangements worked well and full credit to the staff and admin. Melvin Swallow, Ollie Harding, Sarah Akerman and David Enoch

Dyson Pendle Team Manager.