It started with a plan on the back of an envelope; as all great plans do! Truro Canoe Race Club wanted a challenge which any of their members could take part in and the British Canoeing Three Lakes Challenge fitted the bill perfectly.
Two club members, Gary Partridge and his son Oscar, had already taken on the challenge in 2017. On that occasion they missed out on the record time of completing all three lakes by just two minutes. They were keen to go back and get a faster time, along with some other boats. In the end there were four family duos fit and raring to go; joining Gary and Oscar would be Mark Jadav and his son Sam, Matt Thomas and daughter Jasmyn and Ella Walsworth-Bell with her daughter Miriam.
All teams had hoped to use K2 racing boats but a last minute decision meant two pairs swapping to Epic surf-skis for safety purposes. The plan was to take on Windermere first before heading to Scotland and Loch Awe and back to Wales and Bala for the final leg of the challenge.
The Three Lakes Challenge is calculated on the total paddle time of the lakes and does not include the time taken in between. This means that challengers can complete over any time period. The club chose to spend a few days on their challenge.
Travelling from the south west to their camping point near Windermere proved easier for one group than the other when one vehicle broke down en route. This meant two pairs getting Windermere paddled on the 29th May and the others chasing their wake on the 30th. All teams made good time with Gary and Oscar beating their own previous time by five minutes.
Even sunnier weather followed the teams to Scotland. On arrival they sought refuge in the Torran Bay Hostel, where the soft sofa and endless supplies of toast readied the paddlers for the onslaught of midges crossing the Loch.
Loch Awe is the longest and most remote lake in the challenge and the teams kitted up with VHF radios and high energy food. Instead of all paddling at once the groups supported each other up the lake by boat and car. The youngsters showed great resilience and determination to finish, gunning it for the fastest time despite mixed wind directions and forces.
Loch Awe has to be the highlight. Such a magnificent and vast body of water, in stunning scenery, alongside the personal challenge of paddling that distance.– Mark Jadav
All teams finished in fantastic times, with Gary and Oscar once again knocking minutes off their previous attempt and propelling themselves closer to finishing at the top of the three lakes leaderboard.
The final lake and it was time for a bit of fun. After setting up camp all four teams hit the water together and raced each other up and down the lake. As this is the shortest lake the teams felt more as if they were on one of their usual training runs and with all four boats on the water they pushed that little bit faster. Afterwards great hilarity ensued with teams tipping over the surf skis, swimming in the lake and doing push-ups between the boats.
My advice to others is go prepared. We broke a rudder on the first lake but luckily had a spare.– Matthew Thomas
Gary and Oscar shaved one minute off their previous time on Bala and twelve minutes off their overall Three Lakes time. This meant that they covered the entire 43 miles of Windermere, Loch Awe and Bala in the incredibly impressive time of just 6 hours and 6 minutes, propelling them to the top of the challenge leaderboard!
Despite broken cars and boats all four pairs posted impressive final times. A team effort which speaks for itself in terms of achievement.
I would highly recommend the Three Lakes Challenge to others. Be sure to watch the weather and allow additional time for unexpected challenges!– Ella Walsworth-Bell
British Canoeing have a range of challenge routes which suit people of all paddling abilities. To find your perfect challenge and discover how to get your name on the leaderboard click here.