Kaya-Kings tame wild water course

Battling the elements: WWR captain Ben Smith takes on the challenging course. Image: Tom Clare

The freezing conditions of last weekend saw the dedicated members of Newcastle University Canoe Club don their wetsuits and take to the dam-fed Washburn River in Harrogate to compete in the annual two-day BUCS Wild Water Racing Championships.

The conditions were far from ideal as the 29 determined competitors from the Toon arrived at the fast and narrow river in North Yorkshire. With punishing temperatures of around 3 degrees Celsius, not only did the team have to compete in the heavy rain, but they also had to negotiate heavy snow on the Saturday.

Members of the public and members of the other teams joined Newcastle Canoe Club’s coach Christ Barratt to cheer all the competitors on from the banks.

Proceedings officially began at around 10am on Saturday and continued until around 4pm. Sunday was another long day, starting at a similar time and finishing at 2pm.

“Craig Milne commented that the team did remarkably well, and praised them for their ability to adapt to changes on the day”

Around 20 boats were taken down to be used for competing, but with almost 30 competitors, it took great organisation to manage the boats and share them between the team and individual runs.

There were several different runs to be completed by team Newcastle. These saw the competitors compete in a series of boats (K1s, C1s, C2s), individually or in teams, down a long course of roughly 10 minutes and a short course of roughly 90 seconds. Each kayaker completed between 3 and 7 runs and over 20 different boats were used.

The arrival of a new boat saw the experienced paddler Nick Bennett gain an extremely impressive time in potentially the most competitive event of the day, the K1 men’s event. Team Newcastle also fought strongly in the C2 category, one of the Newcastle competitors’ strongest events.

Ben Smith and Daniel Leicester held third place for much of the day in the C2 sprint category but, courtesy of rivals Durham, slid down to fourth by the end of the day. The female canoeists also put in a very solid effort and to have so many girls complete the course is quite an achievement for any club.

“It goes without saying that Newcastle University Canoe Club should be extremely proud of themselves”

Slalom captain of NUCC Ben Smith believes that “kayaking and canoeing is a sport that relies heavily upon confidence; if you think that you’re going to swim on the falls, you probably will.”

Ben has put a great deal of time and effort into helping build up the confidence of the team and has played a considerable role in the training of many of the competitors.

He praised the team by going on to comment that “the ability to be brave enough to tackle a course is significant enough, but to also climb out of the river following a swim and get back into the boat speaks volumes about the grit and commitment of the competitors.”

Fellow captain Jess Playle also played a significant role in the preparation for the BUCS event, from behind-the-scenes organisation to morning training. She commented on the fantastic performance of NUCC; “everyone involved in the BUCS competition should be extremely proud of themselves,” she also noted how fantastic it was to see so many freshers and new members to the club involved in the competition this year.

President of the club Craig Milne commented that the team did remarkably well, and praised them for their ability to adapt to changes on the day by remaining organised and competitive even when things got a bit hectic. “For some club members, it was their first time at this competition and they perhaps felt slightly out of their comfort zone, but it was great to see so many determined faces and positive attitudes from Team Newcastle even through the snow and freezing cold.”

Craig also celebrated the extraordinary efforts of the NUCC Committee, who put hours of their own time into the intense preparation to ensure that the weekend was a success.

He went on to praise all the individuals of the club, “Even down to every individual who competed for us, many hours were spent training hard at gym sessions, morning training, the swimming pool and also the white water course to ensure we were all as prepared as possible for the challenges we had to face.”

“Ben Smith and Daniel Leicester held third place for much of the day in the C2 sprint category”

It goes without saying that Newcastle University Canoe Club should be extremely proud of themselves, their teamwork, determination and dedication of all their members set the bar high for all the sports clubs of Newcastle University.

Summed up by captain Ben Smith, “climbing into a silly, wobbly racing boat in the snow and ice to throw yourself down a freezing white water river is difficult enough, but to do this when you’ve only paddled white water a few times, or are pushing your limits in a new discipline (such as the girls’ C1 and C2 races) is even harder. The willingness of everyone to show up, let alone compete, and with such high spirits speaks millions for the calibre of the club.”

Hopefully the team members have now recovered from the weekend of strenuous paddling, warmed up and dried out their wetsuits ready to begin their preparations for their next challenge of white water slalom in February.

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