Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race
Dauntsey's has been entering teams for the 'DW' race for more than 40 years and it is certainly a highlight of the school year. Although just nine pairs of paddlers from the Lower Sixth Form are involved in the race, high levels of commitment, fitness and determination are necessary to complete the event and this is recognised by all and the crews carry with them the good wishes of all Dauntseians, as well as the resounding cheers from the many peers who line the tow path during the race itself.
Run every Easter weekend, crews set off from Devizes early on Good Friday morning, paddling eastwards towards Westminster along the Kennet and Avon canal, before joining the Thames at Reading. The teams of two paddle marathon kayaks and camp overnight at Newbury, Marlow and Teddington, before finishing the last 17 miles on Easter Monday morning with the outgoing tide. In total, the paddlers race 125 miles against teams from many British schools and competitors around the world. For all those who take part, it is a highlight of their School career.
Training begins in the wintry weather of January and the teams have to learn quickly how to keep the boats from capsizing - not something all of them manage easily! Because Dauntsey's trains for just one term for the race, progress needs to be rapid and distances covered every training session quickly increase from an unsteady 3 miles to 15.
As the term progresses, the role of each boats 'support crew' becomes more essential. Tasked with providing liquid and solid sustenance (and not a little moral support) during the race itself, the support crews have to keep ahead of the paddlers, ready at pre-appointed stops to meet their crews. Without their help, no paddler would be able to finish.
Every crew crosses the finish line at Westminster knowing they have completed the most physically challenging weekend of their lives. For all, it was an immense achievement and testament to the paddlers' and support crews' immense determination, spirit and focus.