Written by Tim Jones
We’ve been paddling steadily, but with increasingly less enthusiasm, for about 4 hours. It’s a LONG way.
In particular my neck, shoulders, butt, legs, arms, wrists and feet. I have a couple of blisters coming. I pretend that I’m in better nick than my mates and put on a bit of a sprint to open up a few meters lead, maybe give them some stick.
I’m certainly not going to show that I’m tired. Its OK to be overtaken by paddlers more proficient than me, but my paddling mates? No, that’s not going to happen today. However, deep down I know I need a break and
some lots of food. Maybe my body weight in bananas? We approach another lock, which means another portage, that’s getting out and walking around the obstacle. This portage though, is different. Smiley marshals, drinks, malt loaf and homemade flapjacks. The marshalls tell us about the rest of the route while we eat. About 4 miles, 4 more portages (3 easy, 1 tricky), then back to the finish at the clubhouse with the flow of the Severn.
We enjoyed showers, jacket potatoes & cheese and possibly a well-earned beer. Refreshed, it’s time to crack on and get back on the water.
Welcome to the Worcester Ring Challenge.
The UK’s premier summer marathon event for all paddlers;
- Canoeist, which are open Canoes using single side blades (think Pocahontas), either one man (C1) or two paddlers (C2).
- Kayakers, closed cockpit, double blades K1 or K2 (think Tim Brabbants Olympic Sprint 2008, but significantly slower).
- Sit-On-Tops (SOT) and Stand Up Paddleboarders (SUPs).
The challenge is held annually in Worcester. It comprises 3 waterways, the River Severn, the Worcester to Birmingham Canal, and the Droitwich Canal. Its very unusual in that we have a circular circuit, starting and finishing in the centre of Worcester at the Worcester Canoe Club, as most races are A to B routes.
Part of the challenge is the 30 locks en route. These are both singly and in flights. More competitive racers will run these; they stand up in their extremely tippy racing boats, step out, shoulder the boat and run. Personally, I prefer the less impressive portage method: flopping out of the boat and walking around, while complaining. Either way, they are tiring, but they do break up the paddle and give you a chance for a drink.
The first food stop is after 6 miles and half the locks. We have a shortened route that starts from here the “Offerton Cruise”. This is ideal for less confident paddlers, it usually encourages them to return to do the whole event. Just after the stop is the Dunhamstead Tunnel, 210 metres of sensory deprivation, which is a great, if scary, experience. (Tip here is to take your sunnies off, proven by me to improve vision in a tunnel). The final portage by the weir at Bevere is tough and possibly muddy, although marshals are there to help and guide you.
Mileage is the remainder of the challenge, 21 in total. Top racers will take 3 to 4 hours, my best is just under 5. The cut-off timing allows 8 hours which is easily achieved if you have done some sort of training before. The Challenge is not to be underestimated, but most certainly not be afraid of. We do not advise this as a novice event, but we do want to encourage paddlers new to the sport. This can be is a major target for your fitness year. Paddling uses all the major muscle groups, is very relaxing, non-impact, social, great fun and amazingly relaxing.
I know that lots of us are completely obsessed with times and speeds, so this is a timed event. But in reality for me as an organiser, it’s not about the time that you do, it’s the time that you have. We want paddlers to enjoy our route which encompasses urban Worcester to charmingly deserted canal stretches to the mighty Severn.
The best example of this is a lady who participated a few years ago, for her 60th birthday, having only paddled a maximum of 6 miles previously. A tough challenge but she finished still smiling, she wasn’t bothered about her time, just finishing in style. Starting times are 9am and 10am for the less competitive paddlers and 11am for the faster, racier ones.
This year’s Challenge is on Sunday 30th June, please see below for online entry and more details. We’d love to see you. Just £25 and a great day out, just don’t forget your head torch.