25th January 2009
Hemel Hempstead Canoe Club Meets Essex Man
Chelmsford was the location for the fourth Essex Winter Series Race. John Bennet competed in the Veteran's category and Slasher Preston (aka Snapper) and Jurassic Petersen attempted to repeat the win they achieved in the previous race at Sudbury. Chelmsford is nintey minutes drive away but it is worth the trip. Chelmsford Canoe Club is new and right next to the river Chelm just outside of the town. Consequently the canadian canoe course was chiefly through the town centre and followed a letter "v" shape whilst the longer eight mile kayak course was a "there and back" route.
The race start was directly outside the club and the canadian canoes set off first. As there was to be a steep turn soon after the start it was important to get corner first and be able to control the race. However the first stroke from Slasher's right arm was sufficient to snap the carbon fibre paddle shaft into two pieces.
This was the first time this had happened to him and a number of choice words were heard. The immediate problem was getting to the bank without capsizing as the marathon canoe is a tippy affair and only by breast stroking the water did the pair get to the bank without swimming.
A kind member of Chelmsford canoe club then ran off to the storage shed and found another paddle which Slasher grabbed with thanks and returned to the boat. Only then did he spot it was over a foot longer than he needed and another discussion (with a few more choice words) followed. Then the crew paddled back to the bank to allow Slasher to run the two hundred metres back to the car to collect the spare paddle. Whilst this extra running is going on Jurassic manages to turn the boat around and once the two are reunited they join the race about eight hundred metres behind the other boats.
The course took the pair underneath five bridges before the first turn and the concrete sides of the river bank reflect the waves to provide a difficult paddling surface. To add to this the river was in spate and the higher river lowered the clearance between the bridges and the river surface. On more than one occasion many crews had to bend double to get underneath without banging their heads. Finally the Chelm takes a number of twists and turns as it goes through the town and these were tough to steer around in a boat designed for straight line sprints with no rudder.
Despite these challenges Jurassic and Slasher worked very hard to try to catch up the other two boats. By the first turn they saw the other crews returning from the turn and knew that there was a chance of catching them and by halfway they managed to catch the Mr Harding and Master Harding crew from Leighon Buzzard. A quick sprint enabled them to pass them and set their sights on the leading crew Mr Surrage and Mr Brett. These two were a little more difficult to catch but eventually they drew level with one turn to go. Jurassic and Slasher then overtook to win the race by two and a half minutes in a time of 46 minutes and 28 seconds, both shattered but elated.
John Bennet did the extra miles required of the senior kayak racers where the expected winner was Mark Adams. John came in a few minutes later in a time of one hour and ten minutes, an excellent effort on a wet day with a fast flowing river. See Races page
Next race is the Essex Winter series is at Barking & Dagenham on 8th February and a number of Hemel members will be attending to get some race practise before the Waterside Series races and the Devises to Westminster race at Easter.
(One wonders how it might be that the paddle that Jurassic used for a long period without incident lasted only one stroke in Slashers hands - perhaps he just pulls harder)