Saturday 14th October saw the first National Ladies Training Day since 2015. It was hosted by Reading Canoe Club, with volunteers from Reading and other clubs. Forty nine female paddlers, aged between 12 and 58, arrived early Saturday morning ready for action.
They came from 19 different clubs, from right across the country – from as far afield as Cornwall, Wales, Runcorn, Cambridge and Nottingham … as well as Reading. One paddler studying at Edinburgh University flew down specially for the occasion.
The first session of the morning was all in K1, with the participants divided into groups according to speed. We had seven coaches on the water from six different clubs, giving instruction on improving performance.
The next session was land based – a presentation on Strength & Conditioning, from Steph Morris. With a MSc in the subject and a great deal of experience, some of that with the rowing fraternity, she was enormously informative.
After lunch, there was a Q&A session. Nothing sedate about this, it was done in a special speed dating format! Who knew speed dating could be such fun and so illuminating?! We had five top female paddlers in the room and each table of 10 or so had 10 minutes to quiz them, before moving on to the next high-achiever. The five were Lizzie Broughton (just this year winning a Silver and Bronze in the Sprint World Cup in Portugal, winning the DW mixed K2 in 2015 taking the record and countless other medals in marathon too), Hayleigh Mason (just returned from the World Marathon Champs with a Bronze in K2 and with many other titles, including a Gold for K4 Sprints at the World Cup in 2011), Alice Murphy (another DW mixed K2 winner, Div3/Women’s B paddler, Level 2 coach driving high standards of coaching at Banbury canoe club and much more) , Dee Paterson (on the board of British Canoeing and British Para Olympics, with titles and GB representation across many disciplines including slalom, marathon, dragon boating, ocean racing and most recently, squirt boat World Championships) and Jo Bates (26 years paddling experienced, has raced for the GB team in both sprint and marathon, is lead coach at Falcon and just this year won Over-34s National Marathon title in K1). It was utterly fascinating and inspiring to converse with these five top-performing women and hear the different paths they have taken to achieve their phenomenal success.
Last on the schedule was the K2 session – the 21 K2 pairings expertly put together by the coaching team. All were new partnerships to make it even more interesting. Two 4k handicap races ensued, complete with portage. Terrific fun as had been the rest of the day.
The event had been masterminded by our own Kat Wilson, along with Alice Murphy and Lizzie Broughton on behalf of the MRC. They did a fantastic job, as did their band of helpers, including Tamsin and the kitchen team, who provided cake and hot drinks for break time, along with a hearty lunch of filled baked potatoes and salad, plus apple crumble and custard for pud.
When’s the next one? We can’t wait!
Summed up by Juliet Fookes of Devizes:
“Thank you SO much for Inviting me to THE MOST tremendous Ladies Day”
Sunday 1st October saw Reading Canoe Club’s second K4 day of the year. Whereas the April one had been surprisingly quiet, less than ten boats, October’s set a record – a total of 40 boats. That was from 10 different clubs, some travelling from as far as Cambridge. What love for K4 racing!
Although Reading Canoe Club didn’t have so many of our boats on the podium, we did enter nine boats all together across the six start lines. It was great to see so many junior boats out, going at it with gusto and getting that feel of synchronicity!
Even the weather was fine. Thanks so much Brian – we all had a great racing day. Thanks, too, to our gardening chefs, Catherine and Dominique, who made the delicious pumpkin soup from that crazy-sized pumpkin!
A call came in recently for ‘proficient kayakers’ to support the inaugural Reading on Thames festival which was to take place on the Thames in front of Caversham Court/ the promenade on Saturday 16th September. It sounded intriguing, especially when they mentioned there may be fireworks and pyrotechnics involved. As the weekend approached a strange array of giant floating creatures appeared at the club along with a vast number of crew and technicians. Our interest was spiked further! A diverse team of seven club members aged between 14 and 60 responded to the call and arrived at the first rehearsal feeling rather nervous at what was expected of them. We were briefed to ‘act and move like fish’ whilst paddling behind the professional kayakers, (who by the way were going to have fireworks strapped to their boats), and just follow the large fish until we saw the monster fish. At that point we were to ‘MOVE BACK SWIFTLY and go to the side, out of the way…….GULP!
So on we went, and followed the fish, up and down, around and around, in the dark for two evenings in a row. We couldn’t see each other, (let alone be seen by people on the river bank) but we had fun. One thing we were sure of from our viewpoint on the water – the story and show were going to be spectacular as long as it all went all right on the night.
Saturday came and to the delight of the three juniors Sam, Lili and Phoebe we were handed costumes – workmen safety suits in white or blue to wear OVER our lifejackets etc. (Where did Michelin men come in the story we wondered, but at least we would be incognito). We were also given white lights to illuminate the boats inside – the white plastic boats looked a lot like glow worms or perhaps like the shimmering fish we were supposed to represent. And at least we could now see each other! We were also handed safety goggles as we slid into the water … to add to our already somewhat ‘special’ look. Well, we were paddling behind fireworks!
We sat under Caversham bridge waiting for the story to start, admiring the giant swan lit up, which let off giant sparkler style fireworks from its bottom as it glided up the river. Then it was our turn as the giant fish potted up to greet the swan and we shimmered and wiggled behind it. We circled and paddled to the music, amongst the smoke, under the pops and cracks of the fireworks coming out of the fish’s nose and from the back of the pyrotechnic kayakers in front of us. Then the green glowing monster appeared and we took our cue to scarper to the side where we had the best view in the house of the fireworks, pyrotechnics and giant animals … and so the story was over. It was fun – a visual and auditory delight.
We hope it comes back again!
The wettest picnic paddle for years but being hardy RCC members no one was put off. It was nice to have some new faces join us, including baby Peter who at only 6 months old was certainly the youngest.
For the annual picnic paddle we rest our racing boats and use Canadian canoes instead.
The boats were towed upstream to Pangbourne by Brian and Marc at the crack of dawn, navigating the lock meaning we had an easy paddle back down stream to the club with some fun and games along the way.
Due to the weather we had a shorter lunch break than usual. The cows came to investigate who these wet bedraggled people were and why they were sitting in the field eating their lunch in the rain.
As we were already wet through we skipped the usual ‘sink a boat by filling it with children’ and standing on Nigel’s shoulders to jump in the river games. Brian did not get a post lunch nap and I do not think anyone even had an ice cream this year BUT we did set a new record for the fastest picnic paddle. We set off at 11 a.m and the first boat was back at 2.15 p.m.
It was wet but it was still a good day out with lots of fun and laughter. Thanks to Nigel for arranging, Brian and Marc for transporting the boats and to everyone who came despite the weather and helped make it fun. Oh, did I mention it rained!
By Phoebe Harbridge-Hui
We were a small team at July’s Nottingham regatta – six Juniors, three Seniors and two Masters – but judging from the results, all were in top form. And that’s despite it all those school exams.
Among the juniors …
Lilli stormed the final of K1 500m Girls D, taking 1st, and, racing K2 for the first time with Jesse from Banbury, was 2nd in their K2 500m final. Well done to Lilli – she has gained promotion to Girls C.
Fran, for the first time in Girls C, raced well in her K1s and won both her K2 races 200m and 500m with Molly from Norwich.
Finlay was racing K2 for the first time with Sam from Wey. They looked really strong and great timing. He also looked impressive in his K1s, racing fearlessly for the first time in his Zedtech.
Dan A was racing really well in Boys A, getting into A Finals for all his K1 races. He and Jim looked really strong in Men’s A/B K2 500m.
Fred was on form with an impressive two-boat length lead in his 1000m Boys A K1 final (B), and with an impressive time. He was 3rd in his 200m final, missing 2nd by .05 sec. That close! His favourite race was K2 200m with RLS’s Alex, with a very convincing win, 3 seconds faster than the next nearest boat.
Both Dan and Fred raced together in a K4 they’d put together with Ealing and Richmond. Their 1000m, last race of the day, was uplifting to watch, with their crew totally in command, ‘sailing’ past the rest of the field and finishing with at least a two-boat length lead.
Great to have Neil Barton racing for Reading, taking 3rd in his K1 200m final Men’s B, not his usual distance at all!
Kat in Women’s C took a very convincing 1st in her 1000m final and was just pipped into 2nd in her 500m final (by .06 sec!). Kat and Immi jumped into a K2 for Women’s A/B and showed us all how it should be done.
And our Masters – Nik and Lee – raced very well, taking 3rd in their K2 1000m. In their K1 races, Lee was 3rd in 200m, Nik was 2nd in 200m and 3rd in 500m, impressive when they’d been the ‘party boys’ the night before! Poor Finlay, did you get any sleep?!
All got to their races on time, albeit with a couple of numbers missing. A number-nicker was at large – no kidding! A great racing weekend.
Over the past few weekends the Reading slalom section have tried their skills on moving water! Emily, Natalie and dad Andy Neville went to Cardington. Emily put in a strong run and gained a promotion to Division 3 with a second place. Andy did very well in his first Division 3 race winning the event, commenting, “I managed to win but not by much and against such small kids – they are so fast!’
Last Saturday 6 paddlers competed at Shepperton and experienced their first weir slalom. With the noise and flow of water from the weir, our paddlers were quickly out of their comfort zone. With grit determination and after many swims, they made big improvements in their water skills.
Alex Tonkin recorded a good run at his first ever slalom beating many paddlers from the higher division and gaining promotion to Division 3. Also, after much practice and a few swims, Duncan Edwards achieved a fast final run to win the Division 3 competition.
All must be commended on their perseverance on new and challenging water conditions. Special mention to Peter Skinner who even after 8 or more capsizes never gave up and received Best under 12 in Div4!
The club provided 12 taster sessions over three days as part of this year’s Reading Children’s Festival. The Festival is a programme of activities around the town over half term. 72 children attended the taster sessions, learning the basics about paddling K1 kayaks and the fun of paddling a bell boat. As a result several children have indicated they would like to try out the under-10 fun sessions and the Junior beginner courses.
Thank you to all our volunteers who helped over the three days.