top of page

The sun shines down on Waterside B; On and off the water reports.

Written by Richard Carter

Photos courtesy of members Julie, Carolyn, Richard and Joe and parental supporter and photographer Louise Donovan.


Health and Safety checks being done by Kieron at Woolhampton

The Waterside series of races are run along various sections of the Kennet & Avon canal as serious kayaking races in their own right as well as preparation for those wishing to participate in the annual DW race. For the uninitiated, that’s 'Devizes to Westminster' by kayak (as opposed to the entirely more sensible transport option of car, bus, coach or train). Waterside B on Sunday 26th February took us from Newbury to the lock at Aldermaston before returning us to Newbury.



On Sunday 175 crews participated, mostly in 2 person kayak’s (K2's) but with a smattering of single person kayak’s (K1's) and Canadian style canoe’s which all in all gave us a total field of 289 competitors. The out and back race was a distance of about 28km. The best paddlers completed the course in about 2:05 with the end of the field returning to Newbury, a cup of soup and warm shower in about 4:00 hours.



Luke and James at the start line

For Newbury Canoe Club (NCC) the day started early with the check-in area laid out in the Waterside Centre before 8:30am. Thanks to Ed, Mike, Dave, Andy, Mike’s daughters, Clive and Rob boat numbers were being dispensed and paddlers organised with aplomb. The race started at 10am prompt, with boats starting on a staggered basis over approximately 90 minutes. Clive managed this from the north bank of the Kennet & Avon thanks to a gigantic megaphone (thankfully not needed) and some of the most yellow safety gear ever seen. Clive was in fact so fluorescently yellow he could be seen from Oxford as well as the other side of the canal. Well done to Clive though for managing all the participants past the weir and getting them away safely.




From a paddlers perspective

by Richard Carter


Richard and Phil

I participated in this race as the pilot of a K2 with Phil Bartle allegedly paddling behind me. Mind you he alleges that whatever I was doing up front it certainly wasn’t piloting (very well) so that makes us equal in the allege stakes. The club K2 is open to be used by all NCC paddlers as part of their monthly fee’s. It is super stable (this is kayaker code for saying on this occasion we didn’t fall in), but in my defence it did have the turning circle of a double decker bus. Anyways, only having practiced 3 times we made it up to Aldermarston and back in a time of 3:20:00. Thanks to Rob for supplying jelly babies at the halfway mark. Thanks to Phil for the patience of a saint and exactly the positive spirit you need in the back of a K2 for several hours.


As a race there were about 20 portages which made the route testing, especially as some of the pounds were low on water.


There’s a lot of pretty countryside on display along the Kennet & Avon. On occasion it felt as though we were paddling through treacle as the current from the riverine sections seemed relatively strong.


Aldermarston

Around Aldermarston we got to see the racers who were returning which was a pleasure. It’s great to see young paddlers engaged in such an endeavour and a challenge as there was a fair amount of chop.


The other major challenge was a low bridge. I saw some K2’s shimmy under the bridge virtually without breaking their stroke. Given that I have assembled sideboards from IKEA that have shown more flexibility than our backs there was no shimmying going on in our K2. More an uncomfortable scramble along the edge. But we made it around. We got home dry. We had fun. Rob said that when paddling we looked a bit like ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ …. Ho humm not ‘Fast & Furious’ then… room for improvement in 2024 😊.


Paddlers returned to the Waterside for warm food put on by Kelly and her crew.

Smile or grimace?


I looked at the marshal’s page prepared by Lynne and Jo and over 20 people volunteered their time to make Waterside B happen. Thanks to all.




From a Marshals perspective

by Julie Raworth

The Waterside Series would not be possible without all of the volunteers that come and play their part. Health and safety is paramount and so marshals are essentially placed along the route to ensure the relationship between the paddlers and public is a positive one and that there is support for any mishaps or sinking of ships.


This weekend I was allocated a space at Greenham lock along with Tim and Andy. This is not usually marshalled being so close to the start, but with the lock closed for repairs we had to help navigate the flow safely around the works.


With high vis jackets on and phone numbers shared we set up camp with flasks of hot tea and a picnic in our allocated spots. Being a Sunday morning this stretch carries a lot of traffic for those on a lazy meander out of town or a crazy jog or cycle, especially when we finally had some (somewhat nippy) sunshine. This makes for a variety of paces to work with. You then add to the mix paddlers powering through full steam, trying to save every second they can as they thump over the bridge, and those not quite so swift as they struggled with the travellator (as one of them likened it to being on Gladiators). It was at times quite a juxtaposition of military men with a huge craft trying not to trip over a toddler on a pink scooter as they towered over them.


This is what struck me with the Waterside races and paddling in general from the first time I marshelled; that paddling seems possible for any age, gender, race, size, or disability. Its ability to address diversity was proven to me in just one race. As a marshal and spectator it becomes a colourful and exciting sport to watch as all of these issues are tackled and overcome in their own individual ways. This diversity of abilities and attitudes adds to how much we, as marshals, have to be mindful of in ensuring a safe and sportsman-like race. I have complete admiration for all of their commitment and determination.


On the whole there was a hugely positive respect between all players, with little intervention required as the public respectively (or in fear of their life) pulled in to let boats pass. Occasionally I needed to warn pedestrians obliviously immersed in their phone that there was a rampaging bull about to knock them down. Most saw it as some unexpected fun to liven up their morning.


For anyone considering offering their services as a marshal I would say that whether you are into the racing or not it is certainly a exciting experience to be part of. Moreso it gives you a reason to spend a Sunday morning out in the fresh air for a few hours, taking in the wildlife and nature. No otters were seen unlike my first stint at Bulls Lock ☹.




NCC participants


If you want to participate in races C or D, check out this website: https://www.watersideseries.org.uk/

If you want to volunteer to support the race (and please do, we’re all volunteers), check out here: https://www.newburycanoeclub.co.uk/

If you want to join us: https://www.newburycanoeclub.co.uk/


bottom of page