Devizes Westminster just around the corner

With just a few weeks to Easter, hundreds of kayakers and canoeists are in the final preparations for Devizes Westminster 2016, the UK’s annual non-stop 125-mile endurance test of mind, body and technique. While speculation on this year’s winners builds, it’s difficult to believe results will match 2015 which saw the mixed crew of Lizzie Broughton and Keith Moule win Senior Doubles – the first time a woman has been in the winning boat.

Broughton and Moule, both in the Team GB Marathon Squad, crossed the line in 16 hours 40 minutes and 31 seconds, the second fastest winning time of the century. It was a phenomenal achievement by any measure finishing 80 minutes ahead of second placed crew Tom Diaper and James King and the third placed mixed crew of Alexandria Lane and Radek Zielski.

DW is encouraging competition pushing racing amongst elite entries. The length of the course as well as the notoriously unpredictable weather conditions in England at Easter make for some great battles and rivalries. Broughton and Moule shared their intentions at the beginning of 2015, arriving at the start line in Devizes after a near-perfect execution of a carefully planned campaign. DW fans either urged or challenged the pair to deliver; they delivered.  

“I still can’t quite believe we won,” says Broughton current World and European Silver (SWK1) medallist in typically understated style. “It was great to win,” says Moule, “that was the main target at the beginning of the winter.” Broughton and Moule shared their progress courtesy of YouTube, reminiscent of Ivan Lawler and Ben Brown’s 2011 attempt to break the course record that has stood since 1979. It’s a bold crew that sets out to win DW and break records. To do it publicly lets more people enjoy the experience, increasing support but also adding pressure.

DW commentators were unanimous in their praise for Broughton and Moule’s achievement. Before the race, course record holder Brian Greenham wished them well for the race, enthusing “they’re an incredible pair”. At the finish, long-time DW observer Paul Ralph said the crew were “looking beautiful all the way down”, while Brian Greenaway of Fowey Canoe Club and a DW veteran of many decades commented the pair are “one of the fastest crews to ever do the race.”

The Senior Singles race was less predictable at the start, but punishing competition created an incredible event over the four day stages race. After Day 1, Samuel Plummer and Daniel Beazley were a second apart. As Day 2 ended, another 35 miles down the course, 3rd placed Sharpe had converted a 6-minute deficit to a 20-second lead. Day 3 was a battle of wills, with Sharpe extending his lead over Plummer to 59 seconds, and Day 4 turned into a 17-mile adrenaline fuelled game of cat and mouse down the tidal section of the River Thames. Sharpe and Plummer crossed the line in the same group. Quality racing from two DW first timers.  



Prospects for DW2016

A new year brings speculation about the approaching Devizes Westminster race. There are already good stories appearing. In Senior Doubles, last year’s K1 bronze medallist Daniel Beazley is making a push for K2 glory, having finished second or third in his last four attempts. The crew of Beazley and Smythe made a good start in the 13½ mile Waterside A race – a traditional DW build-up race –setting a new Senior Doubles Veteran course record.

While DW15 K2 winner Keith Moule is entering the Senior Singles, with half an eye on records. Moule finished Waterside A in 1 hour 37 minutes, shaving two minutes off the course record. The DW K1 record of 14 hours 46 minutes could be worth watching.

While Broughton has no plans for DW2016, her Waterside A was also a race record, taking 6 minutes off the previous women’s K1 time with a finish of 1 hour 48 minutes.

Competing in DW

DW’s unique appeal goes beyond its distance. The course travels through the heart of south England, from west to east. The need to calculate arriving at the point where the River Thames turns tidal – at Teddington, 17 miles up from the Westminster Bridge finish – at high tide means Senior Doubles crews all leave at different times. No fanfare, just a ripple of enthusiastic applause; you’re on your own for most of the next 125 miles so you might as well get used to it; glory awaits at the finish line in the centre of London’s Westminster. It’s a remarkable, open-to-all levelling event that has elite and club-level competitors succeed and fail in equal measure.

Haven’t entered yet? Try it. DW gets under your skin. Pick your boat – K2, K1, C2 or C1 – and enjoy the challenge. Beyond the Senior Double and Singles classes, there are the four-day staged Junior Doubles, Veteran/Junior Doubles and the non-timed Endurance Class. It’s effort and commitment but a challenge taken up by 48 international entrants travelling from sixteen countries. It’s made easier by the support and shared enthusiasm of a vibrant international Facebook community. Visiting crews post a message asking for help, connections build and somehow plans are made.

Technology has also opened up the race for more spectators. GPS tracking of the Senior Doubles competition is a great development for crews and supporters working along the course. It’s invaluable when most of your family and friends are back in Sydney, Australia.

Information

Online at www.dwrace.org.uk

DW2016 Event Dates: 25-28 March 2016

Senior Doubles: 26-27 March 2016

Start: Devizes Wharf. Finish: Westminster Bridge

DW2015 Winners

Senior Doubles

Lizzie Broughton (Richmond CC) and Keith Moule (Chelmsford CC) 16:40:31
Thomas Diaper and James King (Army CU) 18:00:12
Alexandria Lane (Reading CC) and Radek Zielski (Reading CC) 18:00:36

Senior Singles

Tom Sharpe (Richmond CC) 16:02:13
Samuel Plummer (Buzzard CC) 16:03:13
Daniel Beazley (Leaside CC) 16:15:01

Article: Peter Hutchison
Photos: dominic-james.com

 

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