Burton WWR (Wild Water Race) - April 2000
Saturday, 1st April 2000
Written By Gary Newey
As I tried to rise from my slumber, I found the sun shining in through my window. Today was the day of the Burton WWR so I was looking forward to good weather during the race. After I had completed a normal chaotic morning getting ready at home, me and my Mum headed down to the OPC. We met up with Jamie, John and Angela who were racing with me. Jamie and Angela had also brought their families along. After collecting the key from the office, we headed to the boatshed to collect the boats we would be racing. We found that the lock on the boatshed had been ripped off and everywhere sprayed with paint. John went and rang Andy who said he would arrive ASAP. Meanwhile me, Angela and Jamie continued to get the Wavehoppers out.
John returned and we put the kayaks on top of the cars. The technique we were using to tie the boats on was totally experimental, so we were hoping for no accidents. As we finished tying the boats on, Andy arrived slightly enraged due to the burglary. As we were sorting out the final bits of kit, a man walked into the car park with a centre kayak on his shoulder. I directed him towards Andy and the man had found the kayak at the side of Loughborough Road. A few days later, two other kayaks were found at Birstall. We piled into the cars and headed for Burton, half an hour late.
When we arrived at Burton we had a slight problem. We didn’t know where the check-in point was. We searched Stapenhill where the check-in point was meant to be for around 20 minutes until we seen a car park with Wild Water Racers in it. Today was a day to go down in record books. Against true PaddlePlus fashion, WE ARRIVED ON TIME! As a matter of fact, we were A WHOLE HOUR EARLY!! When we got out the cars, we realised that we didn’t have much time, so we went and checked in straight away. The man who was checking-in told us that we would have to travel to the start point which was further upstream. This made John come up with the idea of paddling to the start as an alternative to a warm-up. We all groaned at this idea, but we had to go along with it because we had already got the Wavehoppers off the cars. This left us half an hour to get changed, prepare kit and have a race briefing.
At 10:45 we got in our boats and started to paddle upstream towards the start. As we were paddling in the “right direction”, John who had paddled this part of the Trent before decided we were lost. Luckily a young boy in a Wavehopper came paddling past us, so we asked him if he knew that he was going the right way. He told us that he was, so we followed him to the start point. When we arrived at the start point, we were still early! I started talking to the starter and I found out that there was only three people in my class. This meant that whatever position I finished in, I would get a medal! Our start numbers were quite spread out as they were numbering you on what rank and class you were in where usually it is done in what order you check-in. Angela was 142 (Best in Class), Jamie 144 (3rd best in class), I was 148 (Best in class) and John was 159.
At 11:00, the starter called number 141 to the start point because he was the first to leave. Whilst he was at the start, everyone started to get into numerical order, ready to leave. Angela was the second to leave, she looked quite good in the boat considering she had only paddled it around 4 times. At 11:03 and a few seconds, Jamie got called forward and myself and John wished him good luck. He had a really good start and went paddling off into the distance. As I had four minutes to go until it was time for me to start I tried to pass the time away by talking to someone from Notts Kayak Club. This made the time pass by really quickly and also got rid of my pre-race nerves.
After number 147 left, I was called by the starter, I paddled towards him as he counted me down to when I had to start, that one minute passed really quickly. The starter blew his whistle and off I went. I got quite a good start. About half a mile downstream there was a weir. I was informed that I should keep as close as possible to the right side of the pier in the middle of the river for the cleanest line. I went through it very easily except for a little wobble on the stopper. There was then a large bridge in front of me, Jes directed me through the left-hand arch and told me to watch out for the current approaching from the right as I exited. I struggled to steer the boat through this part of the course but I went through fairly cleanly. Now there was a long piece of straight flat water, it looked about a mile or two-long. I could see three other competitors in the distance so I put in a bit of extra effort to catch up with them so I wouldn’t get bored whilst on this flat stretch.
The river started to meander, I must have been about 50m away from two other people now, I caught up with them and passed number 143 with relative ease. As I tried to pass the next racer, 147, I signalled to him that I would be passing on the left. I put a bit of extra effort in to making it a clean and quick overtaking manoeuvre and as a result, he attempted to cut me up. As he came across the front of me, I just carried on putting the power in causing him to need to support. This lost me quite a bit of time, and I was struggled to make it up as I was started to overheat. As exhaustion set in, I tried not to let it affect me, so I carried on paddling as efficiently as possible. As I entered the next set of corners, I closed up on another person, 145, I got right up behind him but he kept his speed up as the person at the finish was only around 10m away. I kept right behind him and as the finisher blew two whistle, I stopped paddling as I thought I was finished until he blew another about 3 seconds later. I had stopped paddling about 5m to early.
I met with Angela and Jamie and caught my breath before we started paddling back to the canoe club. We would have waited for John, but he wouldn’t be finishing for another ten minutes. We found it quite an effort to paddle back upstream after the race so after about ten minutes, we found a little island in the middle of the river and had a rest there. I had cramp in my legs, Angela was tired and Jamie needed to “go”. Me and Angela sat down and watched Jamie try and cross to the river bank, balancing on pieces of rubbish, so he wouldn’t get wet feet. This made no difference anyway because he slipped in the river on his way back. Not long after this, I spotted John in the distance paddling up with two people from Notts Kayak. We got back on the water and joined them. When we arrived back at the club, we had paddled around 5 miles from the finish! We were greeted by parents as we arrived and got out of our boats. We were all especially proud of Angela as she had not capsized – she is quite prone to this - but she wrecked her little achievement by leaning on the wrong side of the boat whilst trying to exit the boat.
After we had all got changed (Matlock style), we went back to the clubhouse for the prize giving. I finished 2nd in the MU16 (2 seconds behind the winner) and Angela, Jamie and John all won their classes (WU16, MU14, Veteran).