Category Archives: News

British Canoeing’s Flat Water Racing Skills Training Day for Juniors

By Jim New

Reading Canoe Club was the proud host for British Canoeing’s first ever Flat Water Racing Skills training day. It was for Juniors, from Div 9 upwards, and was held on Saturday 13th January.

With over 60 children on the water from 20 clubs under the supervision of 13 coaches, it was a great success. Some had travelled far – Swansea for starters, Chester, too. All paddlers seemed to have great fun, as well as work really hard. Although the flow had dropped considerably, the less capable paddlers dealt with the conditions really well.

The day started with a briefing for the coaches to get them thinking about goal setting and talking through ideas. The first task they set their paddlers was six times 1000m efforts, each with a turn around a buoy at the 500m mark. Whilst that session was going on parents were having a talk on goal setting themselves and how to support their athlete children.

Lunch was provided by Simon, Seumas and Vicki – baked potatoes and hot filling of either chilli con carne or chickpea and tomato curry, which seemed to go down well and provide the necessary refuelling!

A second session comprised 200m efforts for the younger ones, while the older paddlers tried out the K4s. A near capsize from Sam Betts’ boat was thankfully averted when he momentarily let go of his paddles. The other K4 was stroked beautifully by Finlay Topham!

Overall the day was a huge success with great praise given to the club. Thank you to all who helped – from parking duty to mass catering and clearing up. Yet again we proved what a great club we are.

A special shout to Seumas for so much of the organisation.

Ladies Training Day at Reading Canoe Club

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”

Walk the Plank and River Tales

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!

Annual Picnic Paddle

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

Taster Sessions during Reading Children’s Festival, May 29th -31st

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.

Jolly Japes with Reading Canoers

‘There’s nothing half so much worth doing as messing about in boats’, so said Water Rat in Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows – set nearby on the Thames.

For novices at Reading Canoe Club it can seem a little far away this ‘messing about’, as you are encouraged to join time trials and circuit training, core focus and rowing machine sessions to carefully calibrated rock music.

The offer of a ‘Gentle Social Paddle’ with a pub lunch sounds just the ticket to adjust the balance.

As usual for RCC the proceedings started at the crack of dawn. We were ordered to be at the club by 9 for drill with our paddle and life saver.

Milling about

A friendly and expectant crowd milled around at the corner of The Warren where the club is located. Boats were loaded, lifts were arranged, satnavs coordinated. Suddenly the trailer rushed off – to deliver the boats to the start point and then to be parked by the finish at Abingdon. Several minutes later a very handsome canoe was brought to the road for loading. O dear! Too late! Back to the shed! I didn’t realise at the time this was ‘my’ boat.

North of Oxford the Thames is split into several streams and one of these near Wolvercote is our start point. One of the first to arrive spotted kingfishers flitting around the water by the bridge.

It was here I learned that, because a boat had been left behind, three of us would be allocated to a boat with two seats.

One of my co-canoers was desperate to get going – maybe to claim one of the two seats, so I felt obliged to join him. We floated around on the water, quite comfortably while others threatened us from the bank.

Bombing the beginner

When Nigel was ready we floated off, pushing hard on the paddles. These Canadian canoes are steered by the person sitting at the rear. Me, I sat in front and just kept at it. I never saw what my steersman (or rather, steerswoman) did, but I could detect a little critical banter between our midshipman, perched on a pile of life vests in the middle of the boat, and the boss in the back. Eventually we got rid of the dissenter when he climbed over to another boat with three seats.

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