Boats were loaded on the trailer Saturday in the pouring rain and it kept raining until the early hours of Sunday morning, everyone kept an eye on the river gauges and they peaked at 1.9 metres in the early hours 1.6m above the normal water level. Luckily water levels had dropped sufficiently by the morning so the race could go ahead however half of the Duddon team had never raced in such high water levels.
There was a coaches meeting in the morning and it was decided to shorten the race course because of a fallen tree towards the bottom of the course, then it was time for the practice runs and trying to find the fastest route down a familiar course that now has over double the usual amount of water.
The first paddler away was 10 year old Ryan Bentley who got into the fast flowing water and paddled straight over the top of the first wave train killing his speed and spinning him out of the flow he turned his boat and completed the race without any more mishaps. Next up was an apprehensive Conner Bentley who had never paddled a wavehopper in such challenging conditions however he paddled well both runs and posted a time of 2:08 on his second run.
After the junior racers had paddled it was the turn of the older paddlers and Duddon had Lee Bentley who paddled well on his first run setting a good time of 1:51, however in his second run he got pushed onto the wave train was hit by a big stopper that killed his speed so was unable to improve on his tie in the second run. Scott Wilson was next; he raced well however lost the fast flowing water towards the end of the river but still set a competitive time that he was unable to improve on in his second run. Andy Longstaff was the final Duddon paddler he paddled his C1 well and completed both runs with his fastest time being 2:34.
Two of Duddons paddlers are now attending universities in the north of England and they both turned up to paddle the Irwell the first was Brandon Wilson who paddled really well in his first run setting the second fastest time of the day in a wavehopper sadly he was unable to improve on this time in his second run. Emily Longstaff also took time out of her learning to race a C1 boat, sadly conditions on the day were too rough and her boat swamped giving the safety team some rescue practice.
Duddon only had enough paddlers to enter 1 team in the team race, the boats were taken to the start as quickly as possible to try and make the most of the quickly dropping water levels. Duddon were the second team down the course, Wilson senior lead the way followed by Lee Bentley and Brandon Wilson at the back, they put a good solid run in and then stayed at the finish to watch the other teams. The racing was very close and when the results were worked out Duddon were in joint first place with Banbury canoe club, this gave the organisers a headache as they only had one first prize, the organisers added up the individual times from the sprint race and this meant that Banbury canoe club won the 1st prize. The whole team raced really well however outstanding paddler of the day was Ryan Bentley who had never paddled in conditions as high as they were; even when he made mistakes it didn’t put him off he just got back on track and carried on.
By Scott Wilson
1st Under 12 Ryan Bentley
2nd under 14 Conner Bentley
2nd under 18 Brandon Wilson
1st veteran Scott Wilson