We had not paddled one before, but the reports were positive and we decided to take a chance. We did not realize at the time that we were buying the first off the production line. In late September 2016 we duly met up with the maker, Nick Adnitt, near Birmingham and gave the boat its first trial run. Things went well and 2 weeks later we entered the 56 mile Glasgow to Edinburgh Canoe Race. We completed it in a reasonable time of 10.5 hours, with no major issues, bar finding the seats uncomfortable and the bow prone to catch every weed and leaf in its path. Training went well during October and November, helped by the new, more comfortable seats provided by Nick. The weather was reasonably kind to us; the normal autumn wind and rain. The Duet is fast and fairly stable so 1 foot chop could be comfortably paddled in. It is a dry boat due to the high gunwales and does not require a spraydeck. Both Kat and I have Vermont Waterway C1 adaptors that can be fitted to a Concept 2 rowing machine. This meant that we could train indoors when work or the weather prevented an outdoor paddle. I am slightly ashamed to admit that we did little other types of training although we intended to.
For various reasons we did little in December and January but started again in earnest in February. A typical week was approximately 25 miles excluding time spent on the C1 Trainer. As the race approached we upped the mileage to 35 miles. Most sessions were on Wastwater, Derwent and Windermere with a couple of outings to the canal and Ravenglass estuary. Throughout the time we tweeked the canoe; adjusting footrests, adding pull bars, sorting out a spraydeck, fitting a weed deflector etc.
2 weeks before the race we organized a 5 day training camp which proved invaluable. We managed over 100 miles of paddling on canal, lake and estuary which allowed us to experience the different types of water conditions that we would face. This gave us confidence in ourselves and the boat.
Once final logistical preparations had been completed, we headed off to Devizes. We had 2 x 2 person support crews in 2 cars. The plan was to meet one support crew approximately every 6 miles. This allowed the other support crew to drive to the next meeting point, park, sort out the food and drink and walk to meet us canalside. On Saturday morning we quickly passed through kit check and registration and were on the water for our planned departure at 0930hrs. Our schedule was for 24 hours allowing us 11 hours to complete the 54 canal miles to Reading, 10 hours for the 54 river miles to Teddington and 3 hours for the final 17 Tideway miles to Westminster.
The canal section went well. It was hot with a slight tail wind, the weed deflector worked, only one swan attacked us and the support crews met us as expected. We generally got through 500ml of fluid an hour plus a couple of snacks; sandwiches or dry fruit. The 600m Bruce Tunnel presented no issues and portaging the 1.5 miles of locks at Crofton Flight went smoothly. By the time we reached the Thames we were 20 minutes ahead of schedule and felt strong. A quick change of clothes and some food saw us head off down the Thames in the gathering dusk. Despite our fore and aft lights and our head torches we found navigating the Thames in the dark difficult. The ¾ moon, when it finally rose, was fairly weak and frequently hidden behind clouds. Luckily there were often boats ahead to show us the way, particularly at the lock portages. Due to the lack of flow on the Thames we did not pick up speed as expected and continued at a steady average of 5mph. We arrived at Teddington; 108 miles done and 17 miles of Tideway to go with only 2hours 30minutes to go to get under 24 hours. We duly headed off, sticking close to the middle where the maximum flow was. Luckily we had a GPS with us which allowed us to count down the miles and check our average speed. With the draw of achieving a sub 24 hour finish we paddled hard, helped on by frequent shouts of encouragement from support crew and spectators. The hard work paid off and we finished in 23 hours 58 minutes and 42 seconds having covered the final 17 miles in 2 hours 23 minutes. 2 very tired but happy paddlers walked up the steps at Westminster to collect our finisher medals. Well done to Kat for her hard work and fortitude and to our support crews for their unstinting efforts and encouragement.
We were 44th out of 161 non-stop crews, 5th out of 20 C2s (1st mixed C2 crew) and 3rd mixed crew overall."