Kayakers Break the Ice

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This year’s BUCS Wild Water Race not only saw white water, but white weather too. However the sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow couldn’t keep hundreds of kayakers out of the water, each ready to shred up the competition.

As they descended upon the snow buried valleys of North Yorkshire, competitors from all over the country were eager to throw themselves down the River Washburn, regardless of the temperature. This annual event draws university canoe clubs from all over the country and sees several GB standard athletes compete in a race to make it to the bottom of a technical white water river section in the quickest time possible. Packed with spills and thrills the weekend promises to throw up plenty of challenges for the participants.

The first day of events saw the Wild Water Classic event kick off. With DJ decks blasting, the competitors plunged through rapids and launched off drops in style in this testing 3km stretch of endurance. Southampton put in solid performances all round, with only John Griffiths taking a capsize which was quickly righted losing him little time.

Tom Pritchard takes a splash. Photo: Merlin Gore

Sunday witnessed the sprint event as clubs paddled a 200m run, giving paddlers an opportunity to go all out – and Southampton did. Quick times were recorded all round with Hurst claiming the fastest Southampton time of 1’36’’. Eric Westernbrink’s run must also be noted, flying down the course in a one piece tiger costume keeping a smile on everyone’s faces.

Despite the best efforts of the team however it was Loughborough that took Gold in all events, proving along with a majority of those Universities finishing ahead of Southampton that the specialist White Water Racing boats that they own are far superior, gliding them to victory. As the snow fell and the frost glinted, Southampton Canoe Club’s representatives paddled to a respectable 17th place. Newbie Sam Hurst made particularly impressive performances over all events, finishing ahead of many far more experienced paddlers, his physical style pushing the competition aside.

It became apparent throughout the weekend that if Southampton is to make any further progress in this BUCS event in the future a specialist boat needs to be available on top of a real investment in up and coming white water paddlers like Sam Hurst. However this years performance (the first Southampton have attended in many years) was certainly promising and encouraged a competitive edge to one of Southampton’s largest and most active clubs.

Ex president Eric Westernbrink commented on the club’s performance: We’re all really happy with this year’s performance, we had some good runs and a lot of laughs, even though our kit was literally freezing 20 minutes after getting off the water!”.

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