Saturday, 7 April 2012

The Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race.

Two canoes start the race together.
The challenge, at 125 miles, is the longest canoe race in the world, and takes place every Easter. The start line is Cemetry Road Bridge on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Devizes, with the finish line at Westminster Bridge on the River Thames, and passes through 77 locks.  It is a gruelling race, and canoes must be lifted from the water whenever a lock is reached, with each canoe having its own support team. The race was established in 1948 by two Devizes Scouts, and has taken place every year bar two, once in 2000 when the Thames was in flood and again in 2001 because of foot and mouth disease.   On the left,  two canoes leave the start together, obviously pacing one another in an attempt to get a good time.  The record is 15 hours 34 minutes, set in 1979 at a time when the canoes  raced on the Thames in flood.  "Health and Safety" regulations no longer allow this, so the record can never be broken.  An official timer starts the races, and the Mayor of Devizes was present to wave the canoeists a "Goodbye, I hope you make it."   It is one of the toughest endurance races in the world.
Sir Steve Redgrave leaves with his fellow canoeist.
 Sir Steve Redgrave leaves the start line at 10am heading for London.  I am sure this will be his first and last attempt, as he said he was not looking forward to the experience.  He is more used to short bursts of energy, not the continued hard slog of this  race.
Another canoe leaves the start.
 Each canoe is timed from the start, and each crew meticulously times every section of their route, hoping to catch the tidal stretch of the Thames from Teddington Lock, with the tide going out, thus ensuring an easy row with the flow to Westminster Bridge. 
Preparing the canoes before the race.
Each canoe is thoroughly checked over before it leaves, and these are  pictured in front of the  "Wharf Theatre," once a warehouse on the old Devizes wharf.


  1. Hi Vicki, just wanted to say how much I am enjoying your blog - I started following you a few days ago. I live a few miles away from you in Trowbridge.

    1. Thank you Eileen. Each summer I teach English in Brunswick, and write the blog for my German students to read. I do have a following though, people in USA, France, Japan, Russia, Switzerland and Canada read it too. The blog will morph when I go to Brunswick on April 22nd. I will put the new address on the exisiting blog, and you can follow me around in Germany, I am going to Berlin, Hamburg and Heidelburg this year. Best wishes,