Canoe club paddle for podium position

Connor Shield reports on NUCC's efforts in the BUCS Slalom competition

Connor Shield
12th March 2018
Nick Bennett, Andrew Crowhurst and Dan Leicester representing Newcastle in the K1 event Image: Alison Stainsby

The weekend of February 17th saw the Canoe Club join over 20 other universities in attending the annual BUCS Slalom competition at Tees Barrage White Water course. Over 200 paddlers tackled the course, a much more technical undertaking than the Wild Water Racing event the club had placed 2nd at earlier this academic year.

Competitors descend the man-made course in the shortest time possible, trying to pass through gates as they make their way down. An overall time is produced with penalties for gates touched or missed altogether. The gates can be upstream (pass through against the flow of the water) or downstream (with the flow), so considerable strength and control is therefore needed to ensure a fast run. Competition is fierce, with club members facing off against lifelong slalom kayakers and Team GB members in the battle for the quickest run.

The Saturday started with the men’s single kayak races, bringing strong performances from National Division 1 paddler Andrew Crowhurst, a first year chemist, and second year post-grad medic Nick Bennett. PhDs Dan Leicester, Ben Smith, and Fergus McClean also produced fast runs down the course. An innumerable number of successful times were logged by other members, all contributing to the Club’s success.

Over 200 paddlers tackled the course

The afternoon saw the NUCC women getting on the water to take part in the Mixed Team event. Groups of three go down together, requiring teamwork and coordination to ensure the optimum lines are followed without collisions. Solid performances were given by all, including Lynn Mayer, Emily McCarthy, and Kayley Barnes speedily navigating the course in the tricky carbon-kevlar composites. Dan Leicester, Nick Bennett, and Andrew Crowhurst pivoted around the poles as a team of single person canoes further boosting NUCC’s points tally.

Coach Chris Barratt has helped the team prepare for the weekend by providing training sessions to refine technique and vocalising encouragement from the water’s edge. Last minute pep talks on the day ensured the team was focused and everyone was determined to put in their best run. Club-organised training has also been running for months, some members visiting the course twice a week as well as taking part in the Newcastle-based early morning training sessions and this commitment manifested itself in the Club’s high placing of 3rd at the difficult event.

“I was really impressed with the amount of training members participated in prior to the event” said Kayley Barnes, the club’s Slalom Captain. “The hard work of all members involved paid off with a fantastic result! The team morale and unusually warm weather made it an enjoyable weekend both on and off the water.”

Sunday was just as busy, beginning with women’s K1. Kayley Barnes’ practice proved worthwhile, locking in a time to be proud of; Kay Whyte channelled initial anger into powerful paddling as she also flew through the course features. The club showed great persistence, as even those with frustrating initial runs stayed driven and persevered to get down the course on their second attempt.

The great placing reflects the huge effort put in by all in both the lead up to the event and on the weekend itself

Andrew Crowhurst scored 9th place in the single person canoe category, with Daniel Leicester and Ben Smith following close behind in 11th and 13th respectively. Canoes are infamously unstable, so the multitude of other members that managed to navigate the white water and make it to the end upright also deserve credit for the valuable points they earned for the club.

C2 runs and men’s team K1 races rounded off the day’s competition. Novices Connor Shield and Jake Coulthard decided a multidiscipline approach was the best idea, integrating both canoeing and swimming into their (lost) battle with the raging torrents. By contrast, symbiotic pairs like Carrie Bamber and Kay Whyte remained upright, as did Kayley Barnes and Emma Scorror, yet again bolstering NUCC’s ranking.

All who took part should certainly be proud of their achievements, not only in course runs but in helping judge at the event or keeping spirits high when runs weren’t going as we’d hope. The great placing reflects the huge effort put in by all in both the lead up to the event and on the weekend itself.

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