Waterside C was faced with a number of logistical challenges, but with the clubs growing membership there were plenty of volunteers to help overcome them all.
There are 4 races in the Waterside series which are used as preparation for the famous annual Devizes to Westminster Race. Waterside C, held on Sunday 12th March, was the third of the Waterside series of kayak races organised by Newbury Canoe Club.
It is a 24 mile point to point race from Pewsey to Newbury along a beautiful stretch of the Kennet and Avon Canal. It’s especially exciting as the race passes through the famous 459m Bruce tunnel, named after Thomas Brudenell-Bruce, 1st Earl of Ailesbury, who declined to have a deep cutting on his land and insisted on a tunnel. The race also continues by Crofton Pumping station, a high point where water is pumped into the canal from the neighbouring lake.
About 130 boats participated in Waterside C. The vast majority of boats were K2’s with 2 person crews. There were a few intrepid K1 racers as well a half dozen or so C2 crew’s paddling Canadian canoe’s. Newbury Canoe Club was represented by James & Luke, 3:28 and Rob & Pat, 3:54. The fastest crew completed in 3:01 while the last boat was out on the water for 5:23 on a mild but windy March morning. Mild or not this is a challenging race for all participants and no mistake.
Organising Waterside is an effort in itself involving the whole of Newbury Canoe Club.
Even before the race had begun volunteers had to coordinate race entries, write risk assessments, liaise with numerous other organisations, assess the entrance of the tunnel and remove extra tree growth to ensure a clear path.
Around 50 club members were variously distributed all the way from the start at Pewsey, through to sounding the air horn for completion at the Waterside Centre (and subsequent distribution of hot food and drink).
Marshals are crucial at the tunnel, always on hand to check that whoever went in comes out the other end!
An extra challenge for this years race came from engineering works at Crofton which caused the club to implement a mandatory road run portage with additional marshals.
Clive did a fantastic job of assessing the site and preparing paddlers beforehand with a detailed handout of the diversion route.
For those whose previous years timings were important to compare too, initially it was planned that each racer was timed in and out of the portage and time taken from their end result. In reality this became rather too logistically overwhelming to handle so each racer was instead given 15 minutes to portage, with the promise of jelly babies.
In addition, reports came in from marshals at Kintbury that an engineering train was parked across the crossing, meaning a quick diversion for the portage had to be made via the Dundas Arms.
Notes from Richard
I was stationed at Hamsptead Marshall where a small road bridge gives access to support crews enabling a final feed for racers about 3 miles before the end of the race. The bridge and canal went from it’s usual sleepy emptiness through to standing room only for 30 minutes as it became a hive of activity before resuming it’s slumber. Support crews, random cars, locals and (by then exhausted) paddlers were unfailingly polite. Using the only super power of a fluorescent tabard and a happy smile all went off well. It was especially nice to see young crew’s come through in what must be an epic challenge. One school team had set off at 4:30am from London to be at the start line and still had a smile for us all. I’d like to mention the Royal Marine crew that sped through the portage at breakneck speed – despite having the heaviest kayak of any entrant by a factor of 2. Not withstanding the boat and the effort, they still had the grace to thank all the marshal’s which was very classy.
Well done to all involved!
Join us for Waterside D, 12th March 2023
You can check out Devizes to Westminster here: http://www.dwrace.co.uk/
You can see the results here for Waterside C: https://www.watersideseries.org.uk/results/2023resc.pdf
For those interested in the works that were going on at Crofton can visit
Written by Richard Carter and Julie Raworth
Photos courtesy of Richard Carter, Jill Pridy, Rachel