Explorers Connect

Canoeing Devizes to Westminster

OtherJames Hipkiss

On Sunday morning we paddled under Westminster Bridge to finish the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Marathon. It took us 26 hours and 6 mins to paddle the 125 miles and run the 77 portages.

The DW is always held at Easter and this Easter was the coldest on record! Of the 160 crews that started only 100 made it to the end. We were among only 6 women crews to finish. We were not among the fastest, but that was never the aim. After having to retire at 106 miles last year, it was all about finishing in this years extreme conditions. Leaving Devizes at 7am we paddled 55 miles along the Kennet and Avon canal battling ice and headwinds. As night fell we reached the Thames.

The temperature dropped and we spent most of the night with a thick layer of ice covering our kayak and all our kit. We managed to meet our support crew about every hour for hot drinks and jaffa cakes. Disaster almost struck when we fell in in the middle of the night. Fortunately we were close to a portage and we were quickly ashore. Our support crew provided dry clothes and we were soon on our way again, shocked but OK. At 6.30am we reached the tideway in still bitter temperatures.

After one last hot drink and some extra clothes from our support crew we set off down the last gruelling 17 miles. This section was the hardest part. We felt like we were crawling! All the hardships were forgotten as we paddled under Westminster Bridge to crowds and cheering. It was wonderful to be reunited with our support crew who had looked after us all along the course and through that long cold night. Getting our medals was the culmination of 2 long winters of training, 100s of miles paddled, mostly pre dawn before work, a crushing disappointment last year and an epic battle against the elements this year. What an amazing journey!

The full story is here in the sequel to our training cartoon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52DfMnNh0jc This was hard for us, but at least we have the choice to do it or not. For some people life is just hard no choice. In doing this event we have tried to raise some money to help people who just dont have this kind of access to adventure. For disabled people its so much harder and more expensive to go paddling or take part in any kind of adventure activity. https://www.justgiving.com/Bendrigg-Expeditions Or text Jill49 to 70070 On March 30th 2013 Jill Corso and Liz Barlow will set off in their second attempt to complete the non stop 125 mile Devizes to Westminster Canoe Marathon.

This will just be the last part of an adventure that has lasted 18 months. Training has spanned 2 long cold winters with many miles paddled in the dark before work. More about that in the cartoon below.

They are raising money for the Bendrigg Trust's Spirit of Adventure project. The project is all about enabling disabled people to have access to the sort of adventures that most of us take for granted. We are helping disabled people to do things that they thought impossible!! Rather than just asking people to give money we are running a competition to guess our finish time!

Give 5 and have a guess, the prizes are a couple of nice Lowe Alpine Peak Attack rucksacks. Enter on our just giving page https://www.justgiving.com/Bendrigg-Expeditions We have made a cartoon about the madness of it all !! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5bIRSl1WRM If you have ever done an endurance event this should make you laugh!! If it does text JILL49 to 70070 to donate.