On Saturday 9th April a team from Newcastle University’s Canoe Club travelled down to the River Washburn in the Yorkshire Dales to race in the annual BUCS Wild Water Racing competition. There was an air of excitement, as enthusiastic spectators of all ages lined the banks to watch the races, take photographs and to cheer on their favourite teams.
After a few promising practice runs early in the morning, the 12 strong team were ready and raring to go when the competition began at 9.30am. Throughout the day the kayakers, spurred on by the guidance and encouragement of their supportive coach, Chris Barratt, took on two different white water courses - the long course taking around 10 minutes and the short course taking around a minute and a half - in a range of different racing boats; K1s (kayaks), C1s (canoes) and C2s (duo canoes).
"There was an air of excitement, as enthusiastic spectators of all ages lined the banks to watch the races"
Aside from the challenging white water courses, the limited number of boats and drivers meant that a tight schedule had to be followed in order to transport the team from the end of the course back to the start line at the top in time for their next races, whilst ensuring there were enough boats for everybody to complete their runs. Not only did this require an incredible amount of organisation, which wouldn’t have been possible without the leadership of team captain Duncan Boyter, but it also meant the competitors had to deal with shorter rest periods between runs, making stamina a crucial part of the competitors’ skill set.
After a tremendously long day of intense paddling, with a 5.30pm finish, and each kayaker completing an impressive average of 5-8 runs, NUCC brought home an astounding 75 BUCS points for Newcastle University; an astonishing feat from just a single day of competition.
"Such a convincing victory would not have been possible without superb individual performances from all members of the team"
Out of the 15 university teams that attended, NUCC triumphed, with rivals, and former champions, Durham, trailing 27 points behind in second place, followed by last year’s winners, Loughborough, in third.
Such a convincing victory would not have been possible without superb individual performances from all members of the team, many of whom also walked away with medals. A very well deserved silver medal was awarded to President of the club, Daniel Leicester, in the open team race along with Crayston Renner and Ben Smith. A fantastic performance also secured 2 bronze medals for Fergus McClean and Ben Smith in the C2 long course and sprint course, with 4th place also being awarded to a Newcastle team.
"it is evident that the team’s success didn’t come without a lot of hard work"
The day also saw a particularly impressive performance in the C1 women’s race with Jessica Playle, Carrie Bamber and NUCC captain Laura Wiley coming 4th, 5th and 6th. Commenting on the girls’ performance, Laura Wiley remarked “with less girls in the competition, we knew that we had a good chance entering into the C1 race because not many girls are at the standard to race C1s, and as a result it’s fantastic that all the girls threw themselves in at the deep end at training because we’ve come out with some excellent results.”
"While getting up for early morning training wasn’t always the most fun it really showed in the paddling skills of those who raced"
With the team sticking to a gruelling training programme, comprising of weekly strength and conditioning sessions, bi-weekly early morning river training at Newburn, frequent trips to the Tees Barrage to practise white water paddling, technical paddling practise at Gosforth pool and river trips almost every weekend it is evident that the team’s success didn’t come without a lot of hard work. Captain Duncan Boyter comments, “it was hugely satisfying to see the hard work and months of training that all the members of the team have put in pay off in the end. While getting up for early morning training wasn’t always the most fun it really showed in the paddling skills of those who raced.”
President of the club, Daniel Leicester, who was elated with club’s performance, said, “I was incredibly proud of everyone who went. Everyone had a part to play, and we wouldn’t have won without everyone being so involved and trying their best.” Commenting on their victory against rivals Durham and Loughborough, he added, “after 5 years of placing top 5 but not winning it was extremely satisfying to finally beat our rivals and come in 1st place.”