THE sun shone and paddlers from across the country were in high spirits at the start of the Devizes to Westminster Canoe race this morning.

Among the crew setting off from The Wharf at 7am were a number of pupils from Dauntsey's School at West Lavington and Marlborough College. Young crews from Devizes Canoe Club were also preparing for four days of challenges which stand between them and glory in London.

Race organiser Keith Bennett was delighted with the conditions but feeling a little frustrated as he is confined to a wheelchair as he recuperates from lengthy back surgery needed after years of canoeing and rock climbing taking their toll.

He said: "The weather forecast is looking excellent and all is going well but it is hard for me not being able to rush around an organise everything like I normally would."

Devizes Mayor Andy Geddes was in his element among the paddlers. He said: "It was the canoe race that first attracted us to Devizes. I have never done the race but I used to do quite a bit of canoeing and there is still a canoe in the back garden."

Devizes MP Claire Perry was also at the start line to cheer on the first crews going over the start line. She said: "I always really enjoy being here for this event. One day I will actually take part."

There was also good news on the progress of Devizes Canoe Club members Mark Ball and Steve Bush who will take to the water tomorrow (Saturday) for the straight through race to Westminster having already completed two legs of The Epic Tri 2019 which involved fell running in the Lake District and cycling from Lands End to John O'Groats.

By early yesterday morning they were well on their way to Cornwall.

Among the young crews getting ready at the Wharf were Catriona Edington, 18, and Maddy Wilks, 18, pupils at Dauntsey's School but competing for Devizes Canoe Club.

They took part in last year's race but only got as far as Reading when the race was stopped because of the weather.

Maddie George, 17, and Poppy Waterworth, 16, were competing for Dauntsey's along with six other crews. Maddie said: "Our training has gone well and we haven't actually fallen in yet. I am very excited."

Alice Moore, 17 and Nina Stewart, 17, were among the Marlborough College crews.