The first challenge of this year’s fundraising, entering the River Axe Race, is completed and I managed to pull off an excellent result with Gold in the sea kayak class.
The weather was pretty foul over night and I was worried the race would be called off, but the weather in East Devon had been slightly better than in West Somerset and the race went ahead. When I got to Seaton, to leave the van, it was howling out to sea but it was a lot more sheltered up the river valley and the start point at Whitford Bridge was calm if busy with racers.
The race was split into different classes, with K1 and K2 racers, Canadian canoes, general purpose and slalom kayaks, SUP, Sit-ons and Sea kayaks. Our group of sea kayaks were one of the last classes to leave and I was getting chilly by the time we were given the off. But with a sprint start I warmed up pretty quickly and manged to carve a good lead. The guy behind me was pretty close so I kept up as fast a speed as I could, I almost lost the lead when I span out in an eddy, but recovered OK and settled down into a calmer rhythm and held a good line in the fastest bits of the flow.
The route wound and meandered round bends and over shingle banks and you had to work hard to avoid the low trees and rock defences in the banks in places. The route eventually opened out into the estuary, paddling the last kilometer or two down to Axemouth and the yacht club. Thankfully, the wind had dropped a bit and I slogged on to the finish. I had left my nearest competitor behind luckily, so could relax a little, but still tried to catch the Canadian in front of me. Rounding the last bend under the road bridge, I pushed on to the yacht club slipway and then scrambled out of the boat, up the ramp to hand in my tag to claim first place, in my class.
I have to admit the number of entrants was a bit down on last year, but I’m still counting this as a victory. Thanks to Axe Vale Canoe Club for organising a great race, as ever, and for the lend of the boat from Exmoor Canoe Club. Hopefully mine will be back and fully repaired soon and ready for the next challenge, paddling out to Lundy or round the Isle of Wight.