Canoe paddle their way to silver

Riding the wave: Ben Smith (front) and Dan Leicester (back) in the C2. Image: Tom Clare

Last weekend’s snow and rain was not enough to deter Newcastle University Canoe Club from bringing home silver in the annual BUCS Slalom competition, held at the man-made white water course Tees Barrage. The weekend’s freezing conditions made a difficult job harder when club members faced up against GB-level paddlers to try and score the fastest time down the course.

The event involves navigating down through technically difficult rapids with the aim to pass through a pair of poles known as a gate and finish in the fastest time possible. Penalties are earnt for missing or colliding with any of the gates, which can be upstream, where you have to enter against the flow of the water, or downstream, the opposite, their position changing every year.

“The weekend’s freezing conditions made a difficult job harder when club members faced up against GB-level paddlers”

30 club members took part in a range of disciplines, from team events to individual runs throughout the two-day event. When not racing, members ran down the banks of the course encouraging others, or helped judge competitors’ runs at each of the gate stations.

The Canoe Club’s coach Chris Barratt joined members of other clubs and the public to encourage all competitors from the banks. Chris Barratt has provided several training sessions and invaluable advice throughout the season and his 28 years of experience and expertise, were a key factor in the club’s high ranking. In an email to participants after the competition he noted “the true success of the weekend was more in terms of the progress witnessed”, as well as commending members on their performances and resilience in the challenging conditions.

Club president, Craig Milne said ‘It was fantastic to see how motivated and determined the whole tea were to do well. Everyone dedicated so much time to training and fought hard on the weekend to compete, despite the freezing weather conditions. A big thanks go to the club’s competition secretaries, Jessica Playle and Ben Smith, for their tremendous efforts to make sure the weekend was a success. Ranking so highly in this competition is a remarkable achievement, which we all should be extremely proud of!

“BUCS slalom was the final competition in the club’s calendar”

Competition secretary, Jessica Playle said ‘The training and determination of the team clearly paid off and, regardless of extreme winter conditions, everyone performed incredibly well. To achieve second place overall is an amazing achievement and the whole club should be very proud.

Notable performances included Dan Leicester and Ben Smith placing 6th in the C2 (two person canoe) races, and two of the club’s teams coming 5th and 6th in the university’s high placing. The club had a strong showing in the difficult C2 category, with several pairs making it down the course and earning valuable points for the club.

BUCS slalom was the final competition in the club’s calendar for the year, but they will be still regularly visiting the Barrage and improving the skills that earned them such a fantastic result.

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