With Big Ben striking 8am on Easter Monday morning, the Cornish chant of ‘Oggie, Oggie, Oggie’ rang through the crowds, assembled on Westminster Bridge, as the third and final crew from Launceston College completed the grueling Devizes to Westminster Kayak Marathon.
For the second year Launceston College entered the International Kayaking Marathon, known as the DW; a 125 mile race which begins in rural Devizes in Wiltshire, on the Kennet and Avon Canal, on Good Friday morning. The route requires negotiating 77 portages, around narrow boats, swans and lock gates, travelling through the centre of Reading to the Thames. It continues through Henley and Marlow, avoiding weirs and luxury pleasure cruisers, finally finishing at Westminster Bridge on Easter Monday. The race is split into four stages; 34 miles, 36 miles, 38 miles and the final 17 miles on the Thames tideway. At the end of each day the crews must pitch their own tents and cook their food, then pack everything down in the morning before setting off at 7am for another exhausting day of paddling.
The final and most treacherous day is on the tideway and boats need to leave with the tide. To achieve this, our young paddlers were up at 2:30am ready for kit checks at 4am and to leave Teddington, in groups of nine boats, from 5am in the pitch black. It was an eerie sight. The boats were lit with torches, light sticks and headlamps as they set off, amidst cheers and roars of encouragement, for the most difficult part of the journey on the Thames. The DW is a challenge of both physical and mental endurance and all six of our students showed courage, determination and mature depth of character as they pushed through pain and exhaustion to complete the race.
Pushing themselves to their limits this year were: Tom Mead Year 11, Lydie Johnson, Yasmin Steven, Laura Jenkin, Frankie Gilbert in Year 12 and completing the race for the second time, Harry Gilbert in Year 13. Our students were supported throughout by parents, family and friends, as well as Mr Jackson, our Principal and Mr Rush our Deputy Head of Sixth Form; both of whom provided knowledge, sympathetic understanding and tremendous encouragement having completed the challenge themselves last year.
The crew’s journey started with training sessions in October in the dark winter evenings, in often near gale force winds and rain and ended with beaming smiles (and some tears) at the presentation of their medals, in the warm spring sunshine, on Easter Monday morning at Westminster. Launceston College could not be prouder of these students and their achievement.