Devizes to Westminster Canoe Marathon
This annual international canoe race is described as the Everest of canoeing. For juniors, the 125 mile race is completed in four days each Easter Weekend. The race comprises 55 miles of canals and 70 miles of the River Thames, and ends under Westminster Bridge in the heart of London opposite the Houses of Parliament. On the way the paddlers will have negotiated one tunnel and 77 locks. These locks are ‘portaged’ where the boat is taken out and carried by the paddlers.
Many schools and youth groups take part, but Abbotsholme crews are a little different.
Firstly, over ninety percent of junior crews will paddle two person racing kayaks (K2s). Over the last ten years, Abbotsholme has proudly represented the ‘Dark Side’ by competing in heavier and slower two person Canadian canoes (C2s).
Secondly, Abbotsholme regularly enters mixed crews, with one female and one male paddler in a crew. Several other teams enter mixed crews in K2s but no other team has ever entered mixed C2 crews. On two occasions, the school has entered two female crews. Only one other female crew in the history of the race has either entered or reached the finish line.
In 2014 and 2015 Ed Pashley and Barney Wilson were second place finishers in the C2 junior category.
Also in 2014, Harriet Chiles and Charlotte Thornewill were awarded a special prize by the Devizes to Westminster Organisation, for rescuing two fellow paddlers who had found themselves in life threatening danger.
In addition to the paddling, Abbotsholme crews have regularly raised money for charities. The thousands of pounds raised have gone to such charities as Walking With the Wounded and Muscular Dystrophy.
The future of marathon canoe racing at Abbotsholme is also bright, 2016 will see crews entered into the Waterside Series. This is a four race series which sees ever longer parts of the DW course being used. Traditionally used as a warm up for the big race, it is also a competition within itself. Prizes are awarded for each race and for the whole series.
As a result of their determination and endeavour Abbotsholme paddlers or ‘diggers’ have gained the school an international reputation in the canoe marathon world.