Early in January the Slea Paddlers decided to get as many members as possible to attempt all of the British Canoeing challenge routes during the year. For the first challenge it was decided to keep it local and take on the new Trent Loop Challenge.
The response was very encouraging and they set out with eight canoes and a sea kayak.
On the day the sun was out and no rain was forecast; however the group were in for a windy trip! When getting ready to leave the club house, trees around the equipment store were swaying but, despite this, the group convinced themselves the wind would drop as soon as they reached Nottingham. They were wrong.
Arriving at the start point, the National Water Sports Centre at Holme Pierrepont, it was obvious that the wind was just as bad as it was in Sleaford. It was blowing from west to east, so the group decided to stick the direction of travel suggested in the route information pack and do the short section to the Beeston canal first. This meant they would have the wind behind them for the longer section, on the River Trent, the home leg.
On the way to Lady Bay Bridge the group hugged the river banks until they reached their first lock and portaged onto to the canal. Due to their laden canoes it took four people per boat to portage the steps and walkway here.
Once on the canal good time was made. At bends and bridges they were buffeted by the wind but made it to the Water's Edge Pub in good time and stopped for lunch.
The stretch from the pub to Beeston Lock was against the wind again and tested everyone’s stamina and staying power. So it was with great excitement that they reached the lock to see the Trent flowing well on the other side. Now they knew the wind would be at their backs for the rest of the trip.
Portaging off the canal, the group was briefed on the flow and break-in/out points before re-launching onto the River Trent.
Once the group was briefed on the flow and our break-in and break-out points we set off. For a while they gently paddled with the flow of the river before putting up sails and taking advantage of the breeze. This meant the sea kayak was, for once, the boat struggling to keep up!
The group used range of rigs, from basic popup sails to a full sail using poles. The most effective being the Endless River sail which propelled its craft along at 8mph. Despite this being extremely hard work on the arms the group found it extremely exhilarating and enjoyable.
Slea Paddlers made it back to the car park at the National Water Sports Centre in 5hrs 30min. Tired but happy.
Their next stop is Lake Windermere at the end of April then Loch Awe at the end of May and they hope those trips are as enjoyable as the Trent Loop Challenge.