Devizes to Westminster. 21/04/2000

The race is known as the canoeist's Everest and for good reason. It consists of a 125mile race over 4 days. Also like many Everest expeditions this one ended in failure. Not just for Neil and me, but for all the competitors as the race was abandoned due to dangerous conditions caused by the excessive rainfall. We had a bit of bad luck before the start when one of the fibreglass canoes we had hoped to use was unavailable. This meant I had to compete in a very heavy plastic boat. It certainly made the other competitors talkative as nearly every one of them declared me mad as they went past. On reflection they were probably right. The weight of my canoe was really telling and I was suffering badly after the first 3 hours. However, I was in better shape than Neil who, although he had a fibreglass canoe, was struggling to control it not having had an opportunity to practice with it. This eventually led to him withdrawing after about 3 hours of torture. I continued but shortly afterwards the pain in my wrists, hands and shoulders was too great and Ii had to pull into the side. Determined to continue however, I put the 40lb plastic canoe on my shoulder and pressed on till my legs and shoulder hurt so much it was preferable to suffer the pain of canoeing. I continued this way for the 10hrs and 16mins it took me to get to Newbury. Unfortunately, it was 16 minutes past the cut off time, and so I could not continue on to day 2. I was not too disappointed however, as all the other 4 day competitors were not allowed to race either. By this time Neil and myself had come to realise the foolishness of attempting the course without the specialist canoes the other competitors were using, and not having a support crew was a big handicap. In fact the race officials had some doubts as to whether we should be allowed to compete, as we had to carry all our own food and liquids for the day. This was not such a drawback for me because my camelback liquid container came apart and I had to compete for 9 hours on only 330mls of fluid, before I broke into my emergency 300ml when I realised I was unlikely to make it in the 10 hours limit. I would like to compete again in the Devizes to Westminster as I am sure having completed the hardest day in a 40lb canoe I could complete it in a race canoe and with a support crew. However I am not sure were to get my hands on a race canoe, they are extremely long and thin, often have a rudder and in some cases the canoes are so light they appear see-through. If anyone out there has one going spare please let me know.

Note: The fibreglass canoe that Neil used weighed just over 10lbs, the plastic boat weighed over 40lbs. Even the fibreglass canoe was heavy by race standards.

The DW website