Devizes to Westminster 2017

A late Easter and a mild winter meant good training conditions for Devizes to Westminster this year. This 125 mile gruelling challenge is the epitome of adventure for our Lower Sixth pupils and fourteen of them once again put themselves forwards for the challenge.

After team selection at the start of the September term, and training throughout the Spring term, the team assembled the Thursday before Easter to check their boats, pack their safety kit and for a few final words of advice and encouragement. Nerves were evident but there was an overwhelming desire to get their teeth into the challenge ahead.

Easter Friday was dry and mild first thing in the morning as the crews underwent ‘scrutineering’ and received their race wristbands, satellite trackers and boat numbers. The start of a big event can be a little anti-climactic but the huge collection of Dauntsey’s parents, pupils, staff and ODs gave each crew a rousing send off and ensured they were smiling as they crossed the start line.

A particularly loud cheer was for Mrs Minter and Miss McNichol and it was lovely to have a staff team in the event this year. We also had Charlie and Alice from last year’s crews who chose to take on the challenge again, this time with their respective fathers!

Day one was notable for the glorious sunshine, which lasted until the evening as the crews made their way along the Kennet and Avon to Newbury, cheered by pockets of supporters along the way. They all looked remarkably fresh at the campsite as they pitched their tents and cooked for themselves, along with 140 other paddlers from other schools and clubs.

Easter Saturday dawned dry but cold and the paddlers eased aching bodies out of their tents and into the boats for the second day. Starting in reverse finish order, we had some early starts with some crews away before 0645.

Henry and Hugh had got into the top fifteen crews and started at the back of the fleet, which meant they had a day of catching and passing as many crews as possible.

By the time they joined the Thames at Reading the crews were tired but at least one managed a bacon sandwich on the riverbank. The river was low this year but what flow there was gave the crews a lift as they headed down the Thames Valley to Marlow.

Easter Day dawned sunny but cold and the crews had to muster significant resilience to fold themselves back into their boats, pick up paddles with blistered hands and set off. They pass a series of famous landmarks in the first few miles, starting with the impressive sight of Windsor Castle, where one of the crews swears they saw the Queen waving.

The third day of 38 miles is a long one and although the weather was kind, many crews found themselves having to dig deep and to find significant mental reserves to push on. They were cheered in at Teddington by a significant crowd and as they climbed out of their boats in the evening sun they could be confident that they would finish DW.

Special mention goes to Grace and Georgiana who found Day 3 especially hard and were on the course for an epic 11 hours 15 minutes. They won over the race organisers, supporters and other paddlers with the resilience and determination. They finished to a well deserved cheer from the whole campsite.

Wake up for the final day was 0445 and the paddlers headed out onto the Thames just after 0700 and rode the ebbing tide through central London cheered on from every bridge by hordes of supporters.

The finish line at Westminster Bridge, sandwiched between the Palace of Westminster and the London Eye is an iconic place to finish and as they climbed out of the boat, walked up the County Hall steps and received their medals, our crews could reflect that they had displayed courage, fortitude, and resilience and impressed staff and parents alike with their awe-inspiring achievement.
Sam Moore, Head of Adventure - s.moore@dauntseys.org

Final Times and Positions

138 Cox/Jacobs 19:19:11 (15/90 Junior, 2/28 Under 17)
141 Green / Pugh-Cook  21:36:02 (40/90 Junior)
56 Walton-Knight / Walton-Knight 21:39:23 (7/11 Junior Veteran)
54 Wilks / Wilks 22:55:02 (10/11 Junior Veteran)
142 Gilbert / Gibson 22:59:34  (56/90 Junior, 7/23 Junior Ladies, 17/28 Under 17)
139 Smith / Watling 24:03:52 (65/90 Junior, 19/28 Under 17, 10/23 Junior Ladies)
143 Harding / Cox 24:47:09 (71/90 Junior)
140 Crichard / Hampson 26:28:34 (85/90 Junior, 25/28 Under 17, 13/14 Junior Mixed)
618 Minter / McNichol 26:45:43
144 James-Park / Gray 33:12:41 (89/90 Junior, 23/23 Junior Ladies, 28/28 Under 17)                     

Dauntsey's School Team 63:54:47 8/13 (Crews 138, 141, 142)
Dauntsey’s School Ladies Team 47:03:26 3/7 (Crews 142, 139)

This year's DW crews have raised over £4,000 so far for Wiltshire Air Ambulance. Please consider donating via their Just Giving Page.