6 Hamptoneers started their paddle at Boulters lock in Maidenhead and 3 other members took the shorter option to start in Windsor, last Saturday 17th Oct 2015. 4 paddlers did the full marathon distance and can now be called Marathoneers!
The paddle ran like clockwork and was incident free until we reached Walton Bridge when I (Phil) was run down by a double scull racing up river outside of the race lane. It was a bit like someone walking on the pavement being run over by a crazed hit and run driver who has careered off the road going too fast round a bend and just as terrifying.
Luckily my bouyancy aid shielded me from the main blow of the impact from an oar, but my left knee was severely gashed and bruised from being hit by the rigger. On being ‘rescued’ by the safetly boat I was launched into the boat and hit my head on a steel post. Otherwise I was just wet and shaken (but not stirred!)
Thank you to Andrew who lent me a dry cag, hat and spraydeck to get me back to Bell Hill. I had a dry thermal top, club t-shirt and fleece to put on to keep my top half warm. Note to self : put all items in dry bags and to tie them all into the boat securely in case of a complete sinking of the kayak, which has never happened to me before. Note to all : keep well clear of the race lane on bends in case of wayward rowers crossing into the navigation lane and presume that rowers will not see or hear you until they hit you or pass on by.
Here are some of the paddlers recollections of the day:-
Being a Yorkshireman, I like to get good value for money. So after being unable to paddle for 6 weeks due to an unfortunate incident in the Austrian Alps involving a mountain bike and a helicopter, I was determined to make up for lost time in taking full advantage of pre-paying for boat use. I managed to get out on the water 20 times in the 19 days prior to the day of the ‘Marathon Paddle’, covering 116 miles. When there was nobody around to paddle with I went on the paddling machine or went for a bike ride instead. The consequence of all this frenetic exercise was that by the time the big day arrived, I felt confident that I’d be able to paddle at least 15 miles, if not the full 26.2.
My wife, Nicky, who had put up with my crazy training regime (mid-life crisis?) without complaint, agreed to transport Jenny, Dan & I and our 3 kayaks to the Boulters lock start. She also agreed to be on standby for rescue by car should anybody decide half-way that they didn’t really like kayaking after all. Fortunately this service was not called upon as the day passed without incident. Apart from the incident of course, which I missed having raced ahead from Shepperton. I think the Eccles cake kindly provided by Dan had given me too much energy. I even suggested that we carry on to Teddington but nobody else seemed keen on the idea. Next time perhaps. Bring the Eccles cakes Dan!
I don’t usually regard Shepperton Lock as being the start of the home straight, but with only 5 miles to go, the end was in sight. As a group of us weaved our way through the scores of scullers waiting to taking part in the Weybridge Silver Skulls (the results show that there were over 500 entries), we were unaware of the excitement happening behind us. We continued through Sunbury Lock and on to the club without incident, but my tracker and the official distance tables showed that we would be a little short of the marathon distance. So, despite Jenny’s protests, Peter, Jenny, Tony and I continued past the club and went around Taggs Island to complete a distance of about 27 miles. The day was not over for Tony and Andrew ans they had to drive back to Boulter’s Lock to pick up Andrew’s car. A great trip with excellent company – and confirmation that I will not be attempting the DW.
Windsor to Bell Hill.
A pleasant autumnal day greeted me as I jumped on my bike to cycle down to the club. Paul, who had generously volunteered to take me, Amanda and Phil over to the get in, was already there. Amanda and Phil soon arrived and we loaded up and set off. After putting the kayaks by Windsor canoe club we went into the leisure centre for a hot drink. No sooner had we finished our drinks and we were joined by the intrepid six who had paddled from Boulter’s lock on their marathon.
I was a little nervous about how I would cope with the portages as my adductor muscles were still tender after I damaged them – running for a train. The paddling went well, mainly due to the banter and catching up with fellow paddlers not seen for some time.
Lunch at the Runneymede café went down well. I had a bacon bun which appeared from the kitchen in no time.
We soon got to Shepperton lock, a little wake riding behind a barge helped me keep up with Peter who was showing no signs of debility from his newly mended broken collar bone. My portages became more dramatic as I tried to roll out of the kayak in a manner that put least stress on my left thigh. Not a pretty sight!
Walton rowing club had a regatta on so be had to take the loop. At Walton bridge they had buoys down the middle so we went left. Following advice from a safety boat I kept about 15feet inside the buoys, this wasn’t much help as a single skilled cut through the buoys and came flying towards me. I bellowed out “Oy Walton look where you are going” he turned to look and veered just in time. After that experience I decided to pull over and go up the left bank. The large numbers of rowers made that impossible so for some time I had to slalom round the rowers. I was relieved to reach the weir and leave the rowers behind. As we took the final stretch below Sunbury lock we heard that Phil had not been so lucky passing by the rowers. They will need to sort out their safety procedures for future events.
Jenny, Mark and Peter invited me to join them for the “extra bit” to make up their mileage for the marathon. I declined as I didn’t have a goal to achieve other than surviving the paddle.
Thanks to Phil for organising the trip, Mark for the lift and all the paddlers for the great company. Look forward to your next marathon paddle Phil?
Arriving at the club house at 7.30am for a 27 mile and 11 portage trip sounds epic and it was. Great company and a super organised trip from Boulders lock, Maidenhead to the club house. Tea stop in Windsor and a nice little cafe for lunch in Runnymede. Only Mark & I opted for a proper paddlers meal of fish & chips, however, Dan and Phil were salivating so much over my chips I eventually passed them some of mine.
During the trip the kayaks felt they were getting heavier on every portage and the mileage seem to be getting longer especially when we had to pass the club house and paddle to Mosley lock to achieve the marathon of 27 miles but eventually we made it back to the club house at 5pm, phew!
Getting a feeling of déjà vu as I become trip leader again after a last minute promotion from Phil!
Tony, Mark, Peter, Jenny, Andrew & myself started just downstream of Bolters lock (Maidenhead) paddling down river to join Phil, Amanda & Derek at Windsor, where I passed the batten of trip leader back to Phil. We had the river mainly to ourselves apart from the odd cormorant and kingfisher darting around. I also saw a red kite circling above the others heads as they portaged old Windsor lock, I guess it was look to see who was the easiest to carry away! This trip brought back memories of the DW race especially around Windsor and Penton hook lock, but this time I could go at my pace.
By the time we got to Shepperton lock the group started to separate into the fast ones and the rest of us. We were unable to go down “the cut” due to a rowing regatta which was taking place. One minute me and Phil were chatting away nicely and the next we saw a rower heading towards us at full speed, We tried to warn them that we were there but they told us to get out of there way (a bit rude to print), somehow I just got out there way but unfortunately they crashed straight into Phil capsizing him, lucky he was ok but that’s more than I can say about his lunch that was in a plastic shopping bag, well at least the swans had a feast!
Andrew saved the day with spare cag and hat for Phil.
My first pleasure of Saturday morning was to find Paul Scott at the club ably lifting kayaks onto the top of his camper van! Thanks Paul for a very comfortable ride to Windsor – I think Derek & I almost got a lift back again, but thought maybe as we’d brought the kayaks we’d better make use of them! As we were early arriving in Windsor we made good use of the café & facilities before finally Phil thought we’d better get on the water. I loved the stillness of the river through Windsor, Datchet & Runnymede, enjoyed passing the many swans near the castle, watching the birds and the gorgeous houses as we passed by.
I didn’t even mind the 7 locks we had to portage & was very proud of myself that I managed each one, though with a bit of ‘stabilising’ help from Phil when I couldn’t get down to my boat from the high bank! Lunch in Runnymede was just right, with an easy beach to land on & set off from. I’m glad I didn’t attempt the full 26miles but was pleased & surprised to find I managed 20miles! My longest trip yet. Thank you to Phil for timing everything to perfection & for suggesting I might like to start in Windsor. Thank you also to Andrew for keeping me going at the back of the fleet. Thanks to all for an enjoyable, though tiring day. And Jenny, I did ache after!
Sometimes you really can’t believe your eyes: you see a situation developing and you hope, pray, ache that it won’t turn out as expected. But it does.
And so it was watching a rowing pair collide head-on with Phil. He was trapped: they were coming fast upstream under Walton Bridge, racing in the regatta, and had flown out of the racing channel past the buoys and across the navigation channel. They should have been well on Phil’s starboard side: if he turned that way, they might has responded to all the shouting and turned into him again. If Phil turned to port, he’d be even more exposed to their sharp bow. All he could do was to keep shouting, and to slow down.
C R U N C H
There was Phil in the water, rowers shouting at him, race officials shouting at the rowers, Dan keeping out of harm’s way. Amanda and I catch up, the safety boat trying to do something useful but actually pretty clueless. Phil’s head get bumped when getting him into the safety boat, they ignore his belongings floating off downstream, and – incredibly – they tow Phil’s kayak and the rowing boat through the race to a pontoon near the cafe. Phil’s really shaken – denying it, of course, adults are like that. I finish emptying his boat, he puts on his spare dry kit, I lend him a hat and another cag. Rowers calm down and apologise.
And all the while the race officials are shouting at other rowers to “get back into the channel”, or to “stop rowing and get back into the channel”. When there’s a gap in the traffic we head off across the race channel and on to Hampton (I had a Molesey rower nearly back end me at the bottom of Platt’s Ait). And on to write a grumpy letter to the regatta organisers.