ORGANISERS of the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race have cancelled the event for this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The annual event was due to take place over the Easter weekend from April 2-5 but organisers said they could not postpone it until later in the year because of safety reasons.

It is the second time in two years the race has been cancelled; last year’s race was also cancelled because of the coronavirus crisis.

A virtual race is being planned instead.

Spokesman Keith Bennett said he was “gutted” and the main priority was safety. “It is our number one priority,” he added.

The gruelling 125-race starts in Devizes and ends at Westminster Bridge in London. It involves 77 portages and is the longest non-stop canoe race in the world.

Starting in Devizes in Wiltshire, the race travels down the Kennet and Avon Canal until it joins the River Thames at Reading, then follows the River Thames to Westminster in the heart of London.

In a statement on its website, the race organisers said: “It is with regret that we announce the cancellation of the 2021 edition of the DW Canoe Race, as a result of the ongoing Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic.

“The DW Organisation has been monitoring and reviewing the situation with regard to Covid-19, as illustrated through the information published on November 3 and December 22 2020.

“Although we had developed a robust plan to run a Covid-secure version of the race, this was prior to the current national lockdown that has been imposed in response to the escalating situation in the UK. With expectations set by the Government that this situation could prevail until the end of March, then we have no option but to cancel.

“There is simply too much uncertainty over if and when we would be able to finalise arrangements for the race. Ultimately our priority is to run a safe race for paddlers, supporters and volunteers alike and, with equal uncertainty over whether the waterside series will run, we believe that training and preparation time is likely to be compromised for too many crews.

“On this basis the directors believe that a timely decision to cancel the race for 2021 is in the best interests of all concerned.

“All crews with deferred entries will be offered a refund or the option to donate all or part of their entry fee to DW’s nominated charity Dorothy House, chosen in support and memory of Kevin Dobson of Devizes CC.

“We understand this decision will be a great disappointment to many, as it is to us. But it is the only appropriate course for us to take and ask for your understanding.

“With Covid vaccines now available and giving us all hope of an end to restrictions, we trust that normal service can be resumed for DW 2022.

“It is our intention that future races will run the full course from Devizes to Westminster. The directors are available for any questions you may have; please feel free to email us at”