Leighton Buzzard Canoe Club Races at Pangbourne

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Eighteen paddlers from Leighton Buzzard Canoe Club made the trip to the picturesque town of Pangbourne to race on the Thames on Sunday. Pangbourne is in British Canoeing's Southern Region, while LBCC is in the Eastern region where racing starts in Chelmsford next month.

Motivation for racing varied, with a wide range of abilities taking part. Xav Preston, Andrew Griffiths, Sophie Linsey and youngster Jasper Maldar were all getting their first experience of racing, while more established paddlers were using it as an opportunity to race for promotion to a higher division, some others were there simply for the love of paddling and racing.

The standout performance of the day came from 13 year old Ewan Bates. One of the most promising paddlers at the club, Ewan trains on the canal 4-5 times a week and his devotion to the sport has seen him rise from division 9 to 5 in little over a year.

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On Sunday he partnered with a paddler from Bishops Stortford Canoe Club, Edward Kirtland to race in a crew boat, or 'K2'. Edward is ranked in division 4 while Ewan is currently in 5. The pair raced together in division 4, so were facing crews both ranked in division 4, and many with more experience and local knowledge of the course. They have experience of racing together, only last week racing together at Holme Pierrepoint, the National Watersports Centre in Nottingham at the final national sprint regatta of the year.

Ewan Bates at the start of the Division 4 K2 RaceEwan Bates at the start of the Division 4 K2 Race
Ewan Bates at the start of the Division 4 K2 Race

Ten boats lined up at the start, with Edward and Ewan towards the centre they made a flying start and were jostling for the lead for the whole race, which included two beach portages, where they had to bring the kayak up onto the beach then carry it for around 50 metres before getting back in and continuing on the water. This is a skill that paddlers at LBCC rarely get to practise, being based on the canal there's few opportunities to train this particular skill, but they coped well and as they headed to the finish were in contention for the victory with a veteran crew from Pangbourne. The boys managed to hold the older crew at bay, and took the win by the narrowest of margins, just one second between them. The result is likely to lead to another promotion for Ewan.

Next up for the club is the Hasler Finals in Worcester in two weeks time, where the best of the country's clubs will come together as the culmination to the 2022-2023 season.

For more information about learning to canoe please have a look at the website, www.lbcc.org.uk, or contact [email protected]