The strong winds at the weekend were no match for the best of British marathon canoeing paddlers. Hosted by Norwich Canoe Club on behalf of the Marathon Racing Committee, hundreds of paddlers took to the River Yare, racing across 50 different classes over distances from 3 to 26km.
In the two senior K1 races, Tim Pendle (Norwich) and Lizzie Broughton (Richmond) not only retained their titles, but were also both winning them for the seventh time.
Just weeks after winning bronze at the European Marathon Championships, Broughton was imperious in the Senior Ladies class. Her lead grew on each lap, leaving her crossing the line over three minutes ahead of clubmate, European Championships teammate and K2 partner, Jane Swarbreck, with Wey’s Fay Lamph, a previous multiple national K2 winner with Broughton, in 3rd.
Chelmsford Canoe Club did their best to wrestle the Men’s crown back from Pendle, racing their two GB U23 paddlers up a class. James Russell pushed him to the very end, but Pendle was able to use his years of international experience to hang on in the sprint finish and win by just one second, with Matt Johnson further behind in 3rd.
With Russell and Johnson racing up, the Men’s U23 class turned into a fight between Charlie Smith (Leighton Buzzard) and Magnus Gregory (Longridge) who just two weeks ago were racing together in the K2 1000m boat at the U23 World Sprint Championships. Smith took the win by just five seconds ahead of Gregory with Luke Shaw (Norwich CC) 3rd in his first year of U23.
In the U23 Ladies, Melissa Johnson (Chelmsford) was able to go two places better than her brother Matt, with a comfortable win ahead of Anoushka Freeman (RLSCC), and Georgie McMullen (Elmbridge) in 3rd.
Tim Dowden (Norwich CC) continues to have a great year. He followed up his bronze medal at the European Championships with an impressive win of the Junior Men’s K1, finishing nearly three minutes ahead of the two Elmbridge paddlers who have also been on international duty, with Zac Tarver taking second place ahead of Zak Benstead in third.
Freya Peters is another who has had a busy summer, representing Britain at both the Junior European Marathon Championships and the Junior World Sprint Championships. She showed no signs of tiredness though, as she was able to win the Junior Ladies race by a massive margin of four minutes, ahead of her Junior European Marathon Championships teammate, Amber Cox (Elmbridge) who had to fight hard to hold off Flossie Ball (Devizes) who was just behind in third.
Sunday was K2 day and, whilst there was a slight change in the weather conditions, many of the faces on the podium remained the same.
In the Senior Ladies class, Broughton and Swarbreck reunited for another comprehensive win, four minutes ahead of Mags Dilai (Nottingham) and Freeman (RLSCC) and the Falcon pair of Lizzie Polgreen and Jo Bates in 3rd. Tim Pendle and Charlie Smith paired up for the men’s race, allowing them to enjoy a far more comfortable win than either of them had on Saturday. They finished a minute ahead of the Chelmsford pair of James Russell and Lewis Duffield who had to battle hard for the silver, just seconds ahead of the Norwich crew of Luke Shaw and Albert Hicks.
Freya Peters also doubled up, taking the U18 Ladies K2 title with Amber Cox, ahead of the Junior European K2 team of Katie Brookes (Worcester) and Ellen Slack (Royal) and Flossie Ball (Devizes) and Becky Swift (Reading) third. Junior Men’s K2 National Champions were the Wey crew of Alex Bicknell and Jordan Martyn, following on from their strong fifth place at the Junior European Marathon Championships, with Matt Hinves (Southampton) and Zac Benstead second, and a further Wey crew of Perry Lewis and Ethan Wilkinson third.
The weather was bad enough for the kayakers, but worse for the canoeists, particularly the high-kneelers. A few bravely took on the winds and international U23 sprint and marathon paddler Arthur Leech (Nottingham) once again reigned supreme. He took both the Senior C1 and C2 titles, the latter with Chris Blacker (Southampton). Junior GB sprint paddler Tom Lambert won the U18 class, ahead of Reading brother and sister, Maxim and Tatiana Kimberley.
The highlight for spectators was the mixed K2 race. With 90 boats on the water, paddled by all ages and all levels, the final race of the weekend had a definite end-of-term feel to it. For some it was enough to be part of this – many had travelled to Norwich for just this one race. For others it was a highly competitive hard-fought event, won for the second year in a row by Magnus Gregory. This time he raced with Longridge clubmate and junior GB 1000m paddler, Kate Hipkins, and they finished ahead of James Russell and Mags Dilai in second, and Banbury’s pairing of Joe Petersen and Alice Murphy in third.
There were many impressive performances throughout the weekend and few surprises with, in the main, the top paddlers in each category able to cope with the conditions and the pressure. At all ages, a number of paddlers graced the podium more than once and no doubt many of those in the junior classes will be names to watch for the future. Everyone should be congratulated however for their efforts in racing in hard conditions both days, and coping with big fields, high winds and heavy rain.
Congratulations also to Norwich CC for hosting the event. It was run with over 150 volunteers and, with the ever-worsening weather forecast, they adapted and reacted quickly putting in many additional safety measures to ensure it could take place.
Official results will be available on the Marathon Racing Canoe Website later this week. http://canoeracing.org.uk/marathon/index.php/race-results/
Selection for the World Championship team, and the development team for the French Nationals was made following the event and has been announced on the MRC website. http://canoeracing.org.uk/marathon/
Words: Siobhan Urquhart