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Types of Racing

The main focus for Devizes Canoe Club as a club is flat water racing.  This includes long distance and marathon racing and sprints.

Long Distance

During the winter months, Club members take part in a number of long distance races ranging from 12 miles in length up to the Devizes to Westminster race which is 125 miles.

Ross Warland Memorial Race

This is a 20 mile “out and back” race on the Oxford canal run by Banbury and District Canoe Club and is held in November. More details can be found here.

Frank Luzmore Race

This is a 13 mile race from Elmbridge Canoe Club down the Thames to Richmond Canoe Club (who run the race). As it is held in early January on the Thames it is very weather dependent and often conditions are not suitable for novice paddlers.
More details: here

Waterside / Thameside Races

These range from 12 to 35 miles, and can be done separately, as a series, or as part of the build-up to the Devizes to Westminster Race. They cover the Kennet and Avon Canal from Devizes to Reading, and the Thames from Reading to Marlow. DCC usually has crews taking part in all of these, and there are plenty of people who have done them before and who will be happy to give you advice.
Waterside Races – details | Thameside Races – details

Devizes to Westminster Race

This is a 125 mile race from Devizes to Westminster Bridge, along the Kennet and Avon Canal and the Thames and is held over the Easter weekend every year. It requires months of preparation and training and because the training takes place over the winter months it’s a serious undertaking. Training usually starts in September. The Club runs a comprehensive 6 month training programme every year to help paddlers prepare for the event and provides help and advice both to crews and their supporters who are an essential part of the preparation and race.

There are a number of options for completing the race:

Senior K2 or C2 – paddled straight through. This will take anything from 18 to 30 hours non stop. The course record is 15 hours 34 minutes and has stood since 1979.

Junior K2 or C2 – paddled over 4 days with compulsory camping overnight at Newbury (34 miles), Marlow (a further 36 miles) and Teddington (a further 38 miles) with 17 miles on the final day.

Adult/Junior K2 or C2 – paddled over 4 days as above with overnight stops but camping is not compulsory

Adult K1 or C1 – paddled over 4 days again with overnight stops but camping is not compulsory Adult Endeavour K2 or C2 – non-competitive and paddled over 4 days with overnight stops but camping is not compulsory

More details of the Devizes to Westminster Race can be found here


Marathon races have mass starts and are exciting to view and participate in. They are open to both canoes and kayaks and range from small local events which absolute beginners can take part in, up to international races for the worlds best athletes, representing their country.

Hasler Marathon Series Calendar

Your First Marathon Race


Entering a race is easy. If it’s a South West Region race, an entry form will appear on the club noticeboard a couple of weeks before the race, and all you have to do is sign up. The Club will enter you for the race and the nominated Team Leader for that race will collect the entry fees from you on the day.

Quite often, entry forms for races in other regions will appear on the board, but if a centralised entry isn’t available from the club, you’ll have to send off your own individual entry to the organiser.

Members of British Canoeing can email a copy of your BC membership card to the Club secretary. Non-members will have to pay an extra £5.00 for a “Day Ticket” which gives temporary membership, and insures you to race and paddle at the race location on the day. You are allowed one Hasler race on a day ticket and after that you need to join British Canoeing. When you do join, make sure you get comprehensive membership.

Under 18s do not need British Canoeing membership. They will have a Devizes Canoe Club membership card number which covers their permission to paddle and insurance as long as they are paddling in Lightnings or in Divisions 7-9.


You can use the club boats to race, but you’ll need to request which boat you want to use on the sign up sheet. If two people want to use the same boat, then the team leader in consultation with the lead coaches will decide. There are normally enough boats to go around though.

You will need to transport your own boat to the race, or find someone to transport it for you. please click the button below for our recomendations on boat transport.

How to transport a boat

Transporting a boat

For club adult racing boats you will need to use V bars.

These aluminium bars attach to your roof rack and hold the boat firmly in place. The bars can be bought from several retailers – the club can advise. It may be possible to borrow a set from the Club – please ask.

If V bars are not available, then Lightnings and plastic boats may be transported by strapping the boat upside-down to your car roof bars.

To protect your boat, put pipe insulation lagging onto the roofbars. This can be bought from any DIY store. However it is always better to use V bars to prevent damage to the boat.

For securing we recommend two 2.5m luggage straps from Halfords. Their own brand ones are a lot cheaper than other brands. Put a bit of nail varnish on the end of the fabric to stop it fraying. While you are in Halfords, buy a roll of black electrical tape: you’ll need it for your number (see below) if you are racing out of region.

Make sure that someone shows you how to put the boat on the roof and strap it down correctly. Boats need to be strapped pretty firmly. Before strapping the boat down, take the seat out and put it in the car. Also, take the rudder cap off to allow air to flow through, otherwise the buoyancy block inside is liable to get blown out. If it’s an overstern rudder, take the buoyancy block out and put it in the car, unless it’s very, very firmly wedged in and obviously hasn’t been moved for years. After a few races you might buy a cockpit cover so that you don’t need to take out the buoyancy block before you transport your boat. Cockpit covers have the added bonus of keeping most of the rain out of your boat while you are driving to the race.

Race Identification

If you are racing in the South West Region, number boards are supplied and the nominated Team Leader for the race will give this to you at the race. This is a rectangle of white plastic that fits into a slot on the back of the boat. Out of region, if a group is going to the race from Club some boards will be taken.

If you start racing regularly you might decide to purchase your own board. You can have a happy five minutes constructing your number out of the black electrician’s tape you bought at Halfords, and then a frustrating ten minutes trying to get the plate into the slot. At some of the bigger races, there are travelling shops which sell them, but you can’t rely on this.

If you are racing in a South West region race you need to wear club colours to qualify for Hasler points. club members can buy DCC race Vests here.


Marathon racing is based on a divisional structure. Apart from Under 12s and Under 10s, everybody races according to ability, not age or sex. You will start off in Division 9, which is the lowest division.

If you are in a single boat, you’ll be entered for the Division 9 K1 race: if you are in a double boat, you’ll probably be entered in the Division 9 K2 race, unless you are paddling with a much stronger paddler, in which case you might get bumped up a division.

Your number will show your division. All division 9 numbers will start with 9. K1 numbers will be 901 to 949; K2 numbers will be 951 to 999. The same principle applies to other divisions, so for instance, 721 would show a division 7 K1 paddler, and you’d know there are at least 21 paddlers in that race.

Division 9 races are normally about four miles. Under 12s and Under 10s have their own races in Lightnings for K1 and Hodys for K2: these are normally between one and two miles.


Before the day, find out what time your race starts, and what time the briefing is. Make sure you arrive a good half-hour or more before the briefing. When you arrive at the race, you’ll need to book in.

If a centralised entry, the nominated Team Leader will have booked you in already. Just find him or her, pay and you’ll either be given your number or told what your number is to construct your own board. At out of region races or when a centralised entry has not been submitted by the Club, sign in and pay at the booking in desk.

Get yourself ready and get your boat set up. Make sure all the wing nuts on the footrest are tight – they might have come loose during the journey. If you took the buoyancy out, make sure you’ve put it back and it’s secure.

At the briefing, the race organiser will explain the course, talk about any hazards and then announce the order of the races. Races normally go off at one minute intervals, and Division 9 races are usually the last, or among the last, to go. You’ll be told where to warm up, and where to wait for the start of your race.

On the Water

After the briefing, there will be a rush to get boats on the water. Take your time: you’re in no hurry.

Once on the water, do some warming up: get used to the choppy conditions – with boats everywhere, the water can seem very lumpy. Try practising a few starts. After a while, the first races will be called to the start. Now’s the time to find where the rest of the Division 9 paddlers have located themselves, and to join up with them. Watch the other starts and see how paddlers go sprinting off to gain a good position.

The Start

Eventually it will be your turn. Don’t be tempted to tuck yourself in behind the other boats: all that will happen is that you’ll get a lot of choppy water to deal with. Get on the front row and get ready to sprint.

The starter will try to get the boats into some sort of line: this can take a while. Eventually, the starter will say, “Are you ready? Go!”, or “Attention! Go!” or something similar. If you wait for the word “Go” you’ll find yourself on your own: everyone else will have gone on the “A” of “Attention”.

Now the fun starts. The water will be incredibly choppy; there will be boats everywhere, and you might find that your boat develops a mind of its own. Don’t panic. Just keep paddling as hard as you can and maintain your balance. If there’s a boat where you want to put your paddle, reach over and paddle on the other side of it. If you can’t do that, just paddle on one side (if you can only paddle on the right, kick your rudder hard right as well so you go straight). Eventually, the carnage will settle down and you’ll find yourself in relatively calm water – still choppy, but manageable.

The Race

If you are going downstream, stay in the middle of the river. If you are going upstream, hug the bank. You’re supposed to stay on the right hand side of the river, but paddlers often cut across. Copy the boats in front, the paddlers will (mostly) know what they are doing. Try to tuck yourself in right behind another boat and ride on their wash wave. This saves a lot of effort.

Eventually, you’ll come to the turn. You’ll know you’re getting near when you see paddlers from the earlier races coming toward you on their way back. Give them plenty of room. Sometimes the turn is round the pillar of a bridge, but more often it’s round a buoy. Take your time. People most often come to grief when they approach a turn too fast. If there are other boats around, be prepared to get bumped into.

If you are unlucky enough to swim here, or anywhere else for that matter, get your boat to the side, empty it, get back in and carry on. As you near the finish, you’ll hear plenty of Devizes paddlers cheering you in. Put on a good sprint finish and bask in your achievement.

After The Race

Once you’ve recovered, make sure you get your paddler snack. Food and drink is provided free to all paddlers. Sometimes this can just be a drink of squash and a piece of fruit; sometimes it can be considerably more than this.

Results are usually put up quite quickly after the race: you can find your position and compare your time with those of people in other races.

Promotion & Points

If you have done exceptionally well, and your time is as good as those in Division 8, you might find yourself promoted to Division 8. In rare cases, paddlers have been promoted in their first race, but normally it takes a while before this happens.

Racing is regional. We are based in the South West region, and whilst we can do races in any of the regions (Southern, Midlands, Eastern, London & South East, Yorkshire, North West, Northern, Scotland) we only score points if it’s a South West region race.

The first paddler home in each race scores 20 points, the next scores 19 and so on. Each club’s top 12 paddlers count toward the team score. The winning team overall scores 10 points, the second team 9 and so on. The top few teams at the end of the season go through to the National inter-club finals which are called the Hasler finals.

The Hasler Series

Many Club members take part in marathon racing and hopefully you will find yourself signing up for a race. If you are under 12, please look here.

The main focus for Devizes Canoe Club as a club is the inter-club Hasler series which is the national team “league championships” for marathon canoeing. Clubs compete within their region throughout the year to qualify for the Hasler Final. DCC is in the south west region, which covers an area from Gloucestershire all the way down to Cornwall. Races in our region take part on a mix of canals, rivers and tidal estuaries. The top 5 clubs in the region will qualify for the finals each year.

Paddlers are ranked according to ability rather than age groups, with the slower racers starting in Division 9. As you improve and go faster you will get promoted up the Divisions with the ultimate ranking being Division 1.

Divisions 7 – 9 race over 4 miles, Divisions 4 – 6 race 8 miles and Divisions 1 – 3 race 12 miles. Paddlers compete in single kayaks (K1) or doubles (K2) or in sit and switch canoes – again either single (C1) or double (C2). Paddlers win points for the club depending on their position in their own divisional race which means that a Division 9 paddler can win as many points as a Division 1 paddler.

Once you are ready to start racing, coaches will encourage you to sign up at the club.
The racing calendar can be found here

The National Marathon Championships

This is an annual event, where individuals compete for open titles as well as age group titles in single and double kayaks and canoes. There is also a competition for the overall top club. The distances raced vary from 4 to 23 miles, depending on the paddler’s age.

Racing for Under 12 years

Age group racing is based on your age on the 1st of January. U12s race in specific junior kayaks – the K1 (single) is a Lightning and the K2 (double) a Hody. The club has a number of Lightnings available, but juniors have the choice of moving up into Division 10, which is for U12s but racing over 4 miles, and where they can race their own choice of boat. You should discuss this with your coach. If you stay in Lightnings until you are 12, then you will go straight into Division 9.

Geoff Sanders Memorial Trophy & National Championships

The Geoff Sanders Series is run alongside the Hasler races. Races are split between U10 and U12 boys and girls. They race over two miles, and can often race both Lightnings and Hodys on the same day. Points are accrued over the year, with the final taking place at the Hasler Finals.

Juniors can also compete in Lightning races at the Marathon National Championships held each year. There are separate races for the groups mentioned above and points are awarded to each competitor. Lightning races at the National Championships are not part of the Geoff Sanders Series.

There are also National Under 12 Championships at the Marathon Nationals – both K1 and K2. These are over 4 miles, and any boats can be used.


This is the Olympic arm of flatwater racing, with paddlers competing over distances of 200, 500 and 1000m in K1’s K2’s and K4’s. There are canoe disciplines too though sprint canoes are usually paddled from a kneeling position whilst marathon canoes are usually paddled sitting.

National Regattas

There are 5 national regattas each year at the National Watersports Centre in Nottingham where races are run on the regatta lake with 9 lanes. Paddlers need a minimum qualifying time to race at Nottingham and we arrange regular trials throughout the year to identify those who are ready for the sprints. The entry is done centrally through the club, and if you want to race in crew boats (K2/K4) we will help to find you a partner, either from DCC or possibly another club.

Regional Regattas

If you are not ready for the National Regattas, there are regional ones that we send teams to that are a great introduction to sprinting.

Mini Sprints

Under 12 paddlers can race at four of the National Sprint Regattas (not April) – either in the Lightning classes, or in the U12 where they can race their choice of boat. Racing is on the regatta lake, using the start buckets, over a distance of 500m. There is the chance to race K1, K2 and K4 (with the K4 boats being provided at the event). There is a minimum qualifying time to race at Nottingham, but there are also regional regattas where Lightnings can take part.

Useful Information

The Flatwater Racing Handbook – with full details of all rules and regulations relating to flatwater racing in the UK, useful national contacts and information about the national ranking system – can be found here.

If you have any questions or there is anything additional you experienced in your first race that you think others will find helpful, please feel free to contact us.

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