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In a remarkable display of skill and endurance, Tom Sharpe and Anoushka Freeman emerged as the victors of the 2024 Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race, marking a historic win as only the third mixed crew ever to clinch the title. The race, known for its grueling demands, was particularly challenging this year due to adverse weather conditions that led to a curtailed course, finishing at Teddington lock instead of the traditional Westminster endpoint.

The race commenced under the shadow of heavy rainfall that had swept across the southeast, significantly increasing the flow of both the canal and river sections. This added an extra layer of difficulty for the participants, who set off early in the morning, with the Senior Doubles launching their endeavor at 4:30 am on Saturday.

Despite the truncated course, Sharpe and Freeman showcased their prowess, leading the pack with a remarkable time of 13 hours, 43 minutes, and 46 seconds. Their victory was not just a testament to their individual talents but also to their seamless teamwork and strategic navigation through the challenging waters.

The event also highlighted other notable performances, such as Ludy and Jenny securing the third position in the women’s category and an impressive 21st overall. Stefan and Arnold also made their mark by finishing 15th overall, demonstrating the depth of talent among the participants.

Notably, the race saw international competitors making significant strides, with Jorg and Martin from Norway finishing 5th overall, becoming highest placing foreign crew in this year’s race. However, not all teams were as fortunate, with Andy and Tom having to retire early due to an injury sustained by Tom (from Bradford), underscoring the unpredictable and often harsh nature of the race.

Out of the 72 crews that were pre-selected for this year’s race, only 43 managed to cross the finish line at Teddington lock, a testament to the challenging conditions and the rigorous demands of the race.

The event was not just a competition but a showcase of resilience, teamwork, and the spirit of adventure among the paddling community. The organizers, while expressing disappointment that the race could not conclude at Westminster, extended their gratitude to the participants and the army of volunteers who played a crucial role in facilitating the event amidst challenging conditions.

Paul Fielden, the DW Director, reflected on the event, noting the unusually high water levels and the fast-flowing river and canal sections that presented unique challenges to the paddlers. Despite these obstacles, many participants posted fast times, a testament to their skill and determination.

The 2024 Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race will be remembered not just for the adverse weather conditions that led to its curtailment but for the remarkable performances of crews like Tom Sharpe and Anoushka Freeman, who, against all odds, secured their place in the history of this prestigious event.