DW 2012

After you have eaten all your chocolate Easter eggs and contemplated an after lunch walk, what else will you be doing over Easter 2012? Two of our top paddlers, Mike and Laurence will be competing in the classic Devizes to Westminster canoe race. This is one of the top amateur sports challenges, number 13 even, according to Mens Health magazine ! Canoeing is well represented as the first is Scotland’s coast-to-coast competition, a 100 mile bike/run/paddle from one side of Scotland to the other.
The challenge for the senior racing doubles is 125 miles long with 77 portages, picking up the tide at Teddington Lock within a small window to time to reach Westminster non-stop.
The last Mercia paddler to do the event was Roy Grassby in 1990 and he came a creditable fourth in the four day singles event. The total time for the four stages was 17hours:52 minutes:40 seconds. I was there supporting him then and knew what effort he put in.
The history of the race goes back to 1947. This extract is from Brian Greenham’s book;
Devizes is a sleepy market town set in the English farming county of Wiltshire. Running through the town is the 200 year old Kennet and Avon Canal, a small and cheaply built navigation that once linked the sea port of Bristol to the town of Reading, and onwards via the River Thames to London. Well, it happened that one of the original 1947 Avon descent participants, Roy Cooke, was planning to try to reach London via the derelict Kennet and Avon Canal and the River Thames in less than 100 hours. When he was unable to see this through, the project was willingly taken up by the Devizes Scouts, with the encouragement of locals who put up a sum of money for Scout funds if they could succeed in “taking a boat from Devizes to Westminster in under 100 hours, all food and camping kit to be carried in the boats”. At Easter 1948, Peter Brown, Brian Walters, Laurie Jones and Brian Smith, all aged just 17, set on the first D-W run. Great interest was generated nationally, with progress reports and photographs appearing in the national press, and the local cinema in Devizes interrupting programmes to give reports of their progress. At the finish a large crowd turned out at Westminster Bridge to see them successfully complete the challenge in a time of 89 hours and 50 minutes. So it was that the first Devizes to Westminster run was instigated.
These days the crews that race over Saturday night and into Easter Sunday, through, Newbury, Reading, Marlow, Maidenhead, Windsor, Shepperton, Kingston, Richmond, Putney and on are hoping for under 20 hours. That is tough and depends on training and an excellent support crew to keep them fed, watered, change their kit, shout at them and ease them on their way. Mike and Laurence have inspired great support from the club, so good luck!