Leamington Race

Or, notes from a reluctant Div 8 racer, part 3…

As a concession to Laurence’s incessant badgering, I agreed to do the Leamington canoe race. There were a number of positive aspects informing my decision: it was local, it wasn’t a wash-ridden canal, and I didn’t have any mountain biking planned for Sunday. What nobody bothered to explain to me until I had already committed is that the four miles are punctuated by an infeasibly large number of turns. And my turns are best described as “leisurely”. Tricked again!

My ancient asymmetrical paddles snapped the other evening during what I jokingly refer to as “training”. Many years of metal fatigue had finally taken their toll, and I was left clutching a very short single-bladed paddle in my left hand, and a quite long single-bladed paddle in my right hand. I managed to remain upright, but forward propulsion proved problematic. Having failed at the ‘J’ stroke, I settled on a technique that involved pushing myself along the canal bank with one hand, whilst using one of the blades with my other. This got me closer to the basin, until Adam returned in a Canadian to rescue me – once he’d stopped laughing.

But I digress. The demise of my own paddles means I’ve been trying to get to grips with the wing paddles that nearly everybody who races has been using for years. They are definitely more efficient, but I can’t yet sprint as fast with them as with my old paddles, and they aren’t as good for turning or support strokes. And every now and then, they fight back and try to pull me in – probably when I extend the stroke a little too far back. So all in all, I decided that Leamington wasn’t the place to make my debut winged appearance, and chose instead an old pair of paddles that had been languishing in the club for years.

Unlike previous races, where I set off slowly and got engulfed in wash, I decided to set off fast. Somewhat to my surprise, this meant I lead the race from the start until about half way, when the eventual winner overtook me at one of the numerous turns. I didn’t manage to negotiate any of the turns without resorting to a reverse sweep stroke, whereas she managed to get round fast using only forward strokes. And edging. I tried that on the next turn and only saved myself from falling in with a rapid and vigorous support stroke. With wing paddles I’d probably have swum.

I remained in second place until shortly before what turned out to be the end of the race. My heat-befuddled brain had lost count of the number of turns and was expecting more, so I was quite surprised to find myself sprinting against somebody trying to overtake me. It was all too much effort, so I slacked off and let her pass. Then came the bell, and it was all over. Still, 3rd place and a mug. The best result of my brief racing career! And I would just like to tell Adam that tea tastes especially fine when drunk from an RLSCC mug…

Full results are now available online. The other Mercia results were:

Div 9: David Darragh came first, and was promoted to Div 8.

Div 6: Adam Beaumont came 4th

Div 5: Nigel Wooltorton came 3rd

Div 4: Laurence Garton came 2nd, Mike Fitzsimons came 5th (after briefly being placed first by 5 minutes thanks to a timekeeping error!)

Quite a good points tally for the club. And what do points mean? More races, probably. D’oh!