With the restrictions imposed to reduce the spread of COVID 19 there has been very little canoe racing this year. No sprint regattas and most international, national, and regional races have been cancelled. However some race organisers have managed to stage races in a compliant way and this includes one of the oldest canoe races on the calendar the Royal Paddling Challenge held by Royal Canoe Club.
This race, initially over a mile, but today a 10 km ‘sprint’ dates back officially to 1874 when a handsome trophy was commissioned. The event is held at this time every year at Royal CC Teddington on the R. Thames at Trowlock Island. The field always includes the top paddlers in the country and with little opportunity to race this year there was a strong field. With no other racing this year this event has been designated as the 10K National Championships.
The winners list is an illustrious one including Olympic gold medallist Tim Brabants and world marathon champion Ivan Lawler. That list now includes Leighton Buzzard’s own Charlie Smith, who although studying in Nottingham still wears the yellow vest for racing.
The race was difficult at the start with four false starts sapping energy and concentration. However Charlie got away in the leading group of four, and leading at the first turn. Canoe racing at this level has a lot of similarities to cycle road racing with groups of kayakers riding on each other’s wash and taking turns at the front. That is until, as in cycling, someone puts in a ‘burn’ and tries to get away from the group. Charlie did that to leave one of the leading four trailing and then repeated the feat on the next lap, so that he was in a straight fight with training partner James Russell. In the last 1km Charlie again sprinted away to take the win and get his name on the impressive trophy.
Charlie is on top in other canoe disciplines as he was recently selected as part of the Wildwater Racing U23 team to go to the world cup in Solkan Slovenia in early November.