Heat and still water slow down Devizes paddlers

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: The heat led to few records being broken on the 125 mile race which the winners completed in just over 18 hours  (35958/8) The heat led to few records being broken on the 125 mile race which the winners completed in just over 18 hours (35958/8)

Kat Burbeck, a former pupil at Dauntsey’s School in West Lavington, and fellow paddler Shuna Braithwaite won the women’s senior doubles title in the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race.

Miss Burbeck, the daughter of Dame Elizabeth Neville the former Chief Constable of Wiltshire who lives in Devizes, and Miss Braithwaite finished the 125 mile race in a time of 19 hours 37 minutes and two seconds, placing them 6th overall. This is thought to be the highest placing for a women’s double crew in the history of the race.

The two failed to break the women’s record of 18 hours 47 minutes and five seconds, which has stood since 1995, but their time is the second fastest for a women’s crew and beats the previous second best time of 19 hours and 55 minutes and 24 seconds, set by Miss Burbeck and Gilly Mara in 2007.

This year’s race was defined by hot temperatures combined with very little flow on the River Thames which led to slower times, compared to last year’s cold, windy and wet weather.

Miss Burbeck, 25, said: “There was no flow on the river and for the last 30 miles there was a mild, relentless wind. We were losing time from the start. We are really pleased with our performance. I feel we were a good enough calibre of paddler to break the record but conditions were not in our favour.”

Miss Burbeck lives and works in Nottingham. She is a process engineer at Thorntons, while Miss Braithwaite, 24, a former Great Britain sprint paddler, is a trainee science teacher in Kenilworth, Warwickshire.

The winners of the senior doubles were the same as last year. Richard Hendron of BPP University College and James King of Cranfield University finished in 18 hours eight minutes and six seconds, just under two hours slower than last year.

In second place were Timothy Cornish and Ollie Harding of Longridge Canoe Club, in a time of 18 hours 28 minutes and 22 seconds. Mr Cornish holds the course record of 15 hours 34 minutes and 12 seconds, which he set in 1979 with Brian Greenham.

World champion canoeists Ivan Lawler, 44, and Ben Brown, 25, of Surrey, had set themselves the goal of breaking the course record but retired after nine hours and 51 minutes.

Mr Lawler, a five times marathon world champion, and Mr Brown, the 2010 world marathon champion, pulled out at Cookham on the River Thames.

Mr Lawler said: “There was no flow on the river and the wind was against us and we couldn’t get the speed up. After battling in the wind the record was not going to be a goer. We could have crawled to the end and got a result of some sort but that is not what we were there for.”

Of the non-stop crews 40 out of the 151 entered failed to finish.The highest placed crew from Devizes Canoe Club were father and son Mark and Charlie Bouch, who were 28th in a time of 23 hours 21 minutes and 51 seconds.

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