As always a big thank you to everyone supporting this year’s event on and off the water. Apologies to those who were not able to take part due to the restrictions, and a special acknowledgement to paddlers who have donated their entry despite not racing.
With heavy rain, sodden ground, overflowing rivers and high winds for the two weeks preceding Thameside 1 this year, it was exceedingly touch and go whether the race could go ahead. In fact, on the Tuesday before it, Race Coordinator Dan Seaford did a race inspection and found parts of the towpath under more than a metre of water.
Still Dan had faith and by Saturday, the weather and the water levels had dropped significantly. So, with special measures in place and only experienced, competent paddlers permitted to partake, the race went ahead.
It was a tight ship on organisation, very well run. Thanks Dan. Participants were understandably down, but still there were entries from 28 K1s and 29 K2s. Harry Freeland from RCC took 1st in JMK1, his dad Jeremy was 3rd in VMK1, while among the K2s Erika and Nigel were 3rd in Mix K2 and Bethan with FOX paddler Anna was 2nd in SLK2.
Thanks to all the volunteers who risked the wild weather to man the course and the whole RCC team for making it happen.
Final course assessment is yet to take place, however, this is forewarning that a number of additional measures will be in place; restricted entry, compulsory buoyancy aids, mobile phone to be carried.
Restricted Entry / Course Assessment Thameside 1 is a challenging 12 mile course with 12 portages. Although we take every possible action to minimise risk to paddlers, it is critical that paddlers, coaches and parents assess whether they are able to complete the course safely.
We are continually assessing the course on four key measures; flow, temperature, visibility and wind speed.
Paddlers need to assess their own competence against experience, paddling ability, equipment and support. Competence Form
We are currently scoring the course for Thameside 1 (23-Feb) as 16, paddler competence needs to be equal or higher than 16. For those who don’t meet the criteria, will have the option to transfer entry to Thameside 2 or refund.
All boats should be fit for purpose and fitted with sufficient buoyancy, there will be checks of paddler kit and boats prior to the start.
We are currently monitoring the conditions in the lower sections of Kennet-on-Avon canal. We will need to apply a degree of special measures (e.g. compulsory buoyancy aids, restricted entry) or cancel the race depending on how the river level drops over the next couple of days.
Over the summer months in 2019, Highdown kayakers have been training hard and competing in both local, national and international competitions.
In July there was the National Marathon Championships, held in Norwich this year. In K1, Sam Betts and Alex Tonkin in U16 Boys came 4th and 5th against 40+ competitors. In K2, they did even better coming 2nd, as did Toby Betts in U14 Boys.
Internationally, Freddie Kemp was competing in U18 Boys K4 in the European Junior Sprint Championships, held in the Czech Republic. Their K4 came 12th overall, an excellent achievement. They also took the K4 to the World Junior Sprint Championships in Romania and against 63 other countries around the globe, came an impressive 11th.
September 2019 Alex Tonkin qualified to race at the Olympic Hopes competition in Slovenia. This is another very tough competition, with all the top countries in the world competing. He managed to reach the semi-final in his events.
Also, in September, Sam Betts competed at the French National Marathon Championships. He came 9th in the K1 U16 and 4th in K2 Boys U16, despite being knocked in. Both he and Alex have now been selected for the English National Talent Squad thanks to this year’s outstanding performances in both sprint and marathon.
Right at the end of the school holidays, there was the National Junior Sprint Championships, held in Nottingham. We are delighted that the whole Reading team returned with 25 medals in total, 12 of those Gold. Of those, three Golds were won by Freddie in Boys U18, in the Boys U16 Alex T won two Bronzes and a Gold, Sam took three Bronzes and a Gold. In Boys U14, Toby stormed through the K2 races winning Silver in all distances 200m, 500m and 1000m and a Bronze in K4, along with James Nelson, also of Highdown.
That’s not all, we have James Nelson and Miklos Szavabvari skipping up the divisions and now in Division 5, and Jacob Wright to Div 7.
We have a number of slalom paddlers from Highdown, enjoying the sessions held on Wednesday evenings. Our two main competitors are sisters Emily and Natalie Neville – both in Div 2, and with Emily’s two all-out wins this season, she’s hoping very much for a promotion.
Overall 2019 was an excellent season for Highdown Paddlers at Reading Canoe Club. Well done to every one of you, some of you dealing with GCSEs and A Levels too.