The National Marathon Championships were held at Worcester Canoe Club over the bank holiday weekend. Richmond sent a small team, but one packed with plenty of potential medal winners. Despite being outnumbered on the water by many other clubs the team picked up 9 National Championship titles and 15 podium positions in the various K1/C1 and K2/C2 National Championship events. This was enough to secure 3rd place in the overall competition, matching our position from last year but achieving this with a far smaller team.
Starting us off on Saturday morning over one lap of the 4 mile course were the U14s and junior canoes. There was a large field of 40+ in the boys race, but Joe looked in control from the start and kept the pace high until there were 3 paddlers left in the front group. He went on to win with a sprint finish, 3 seconds clear of second place. Finishing a minute behind him in 6th position was Harry who had a good start to get ahead of the large pack and stay out of trouble. He kept the gap to the front group small and finished well to beat the paddlers in his group. In the girls race we had two paddlers entered, Lily and Freya. Lily had a strong start but didn’t quite make the front group, finishing in a respectable 6th place, about a minute behind the winner. Freya who was racing her first age group nationals had a great race and finished in 9th place against a lot of experienced paddlers. She has one year left in this age group so will be able to contend for a medal next year. In the junior C1 event there were only 3 entrants, but even so Ben and Adrian raced hard, picking off competitors from races starting ahead of them. Ben crept ahead to finish 1st, with Adrian two minutes back in 2nd. Completing the Richmond line up in this set of races was Guy who easily won the open division 9 event.
The next batch of races saw the senior and U23 assessment races for the World Championships which meant races were very competitive with very busy start lines. These races took place over 16 miles (four laps) with three portages- a nicely constructed beach style portage with steep muddy banks and a short flat run in between. In the senior men’s race Tom missed out on the front and chasing groups but paddled well within the third group to lead the group in and take 6th place, seven minutes down on the winners. Also racing in this race was Neil, who was the lowest ranked paddler on the start line but acquitted himself very well to find and control a group of much higher ranked paddlers, crossing the line in 13th position. In the U23 race over the same distance Nick was racing for selection in a very fast field with lots of new faces. Although he missed the break for the front group he chased well in the second group to keep the gap small, eventually finishing 5th but less than a minute down on the first British paddler. Freddie finished this race in 9th place, breaking clear of his group in the final lap. In the senior ladies K1 Lizzie sat in the lead group for two laps before breaking clear at a portage and going on to finish 3 minutes ahead of 2nd place.
The last starts of the day saw the U16s together with some age group races and senior C1s. Racing over 20km (3 laps, 2 portages) were Brett, James & Steve. In the over 34 mens Brett and James raced round in the lead group of four, but were unable to break away. The race ended in a four way sprint to the line, with James taking 3rd and Brett just missing out on the medals in 4th. In the over 39s race Steve was making a much anticipated return to national championship racing and did not disappoint, whittling the front group down to just 2 and leading from a long way out to take the win and become national champion. We had a group of 4 ladies, and Jorg, racing the age group races over 13km (2 laps, 1 portage). In the over 44 class Hilary had a great race to get clear with another paddler from the start. She had an excellent portage to create a small gap and pushed hard over the remaining lap to finish 20 seconds ahead, also becoming national champion. Also in this race was Annette, who is new to paddling but did not look out of place in a quick race. As a division 9 ranked paddler she hugely over performed to keep pace with much higher ranked paddlers and had a competitive race within a fast age group. Sue raced in over 49s and had a great battle to the line, missing out on 4th place by seconds. There was also a 4th place for Tanya in over 39s who had a good race and portaged well but just missed out on the podium. Jorg finished midway through a big field of 30 in the over 44 mens race. In the senior C1 race Marcin had a strong race to take 3rd place. We only had two lightnings racing this year, but Francis and Jojo both did very well in big races. Francis was 4th in U12 boys, with just 11 seconds separating the top 5. Jojo finished 5th in U12 girls, not far away from the top 3.
The K2 races were held on Sunday and the weather was again kind, with the rain holding off most of the weekend. First off again were the U14s, with Harry and Joe high in confidence after their good K1 performances on Saturday. They did not disappoint, and raced well from the start to form a front group, before putting enough pressure on the other crews to create a 15 second gap which they held to the line to take 1st place. This meant Joe finished the weekend as double national champion, with Harry taking his first ever National Championship title. In the girls race Lily paired up with Lucy from Falcon and had an excellent race to come in 2nd, only losing out on the final sprint finish. Following in 4th place was Freya, paddling with Zoe from Addlestone. The girls had a good race and were not too far behind the leading crews.
The first afternoon session saw the selection events for the senior K2 races. In the mens race Nick paddled with Sam from Leighton Buzzard and made the front group for the first lap alongside the two GB boats that paddled at the European Championships, and a strong Irish crew. They lost touch at the first portage but remained with the Irish boat for the rest of the race, missing out on a sprint finish to take 4th overall, but 3rd British boat. In the ladies race Lizzie, paddling with Fay from Wey, had some strong boats on their start line but the two faster boats pulled away at the half way point, with Lizzie and Fay winning the sprint to the line to take the National Championship title.
The weekend was rounded off with the final K2 session over 8 miles. In the over 44 ladies Sue and Hilary had a very competitive race against a Nottingham boat but struggled at the portage with a boat full of water and couldn’t quite make up the gap, finishing 20 seconds behind in an excellent 2nd place. The C2 boys were the only entrants in the senior C2 race but posted a very quick time over the course, finishing ahead of all the U16 girls they started with. Two of our U14 boats chose to race up in the U16 races to gain some experience over the longer distance. With nothing to lose Lily and Lucy paddled a great race, taking 3rd place and less than a minute down on the leaders. This is a very positive sign for next year when they will be in this age category. Harry and Joe finished 9th in the U16 boys against some strong crews, again very encouraging for next year. Lizzie rounded off her weekend by picking up her third National Championship title in the mixed K2 race. Also in this race, one of the most popular of the weekend, was James who finished 13th and Helen, 29th.
These results were enough for the team to take 3rd place overall. The winners, Norwich, had three times as many paddlers and finished with more than double the number of points. It was evident over the weekend that nearly every race had more than one Norwich vest in it, and that paddlers were finishing everywhere between first and last. The Richmond team were rarely outside the top 10, but did not feature in a number of races. Although the National Championships do attract the best paddlers in the country, there is a huge range of age group, divisional and mixed races which attract paddlers from divisions 1- 9. Hopefully next year the location will be a bit closer to home which may attract a much broader section of paddlers from the club.
Following this race Nick and Lizzie were selected for the GB team for the upcoming World Marathon Championships in Oklahoma. Nick will race U23 mens K1 and Lizzie senior ladies K1 and K2.
The following promotions were made from this race:
- Guy- division 8
- Neil- division 3
- Freya- division 5
- Tanya- division 5
Full results are here