Devizes to Westminster junior canoe race begins

Canoeists wearing wetsuits and lifejackets carry out checks on their canoes and kit
The junior crews set off on Friday morning [BBC]

Junior crews participating in a three-day canoe race have set off from Wiltshire.

Crowds gathered at Devizes Wharf earlier to cheer on the young canoeists in the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race.

Aged 15 to 18, they will be paddling over three days to reach the finish line at Thames Young Mariners, near Teddington, Reading.

Senior doubles entrants start their 125-mile (201km) race on Saturday.

It is thought to be longest non-stop canoe race in the world.

Site director Keith Bennett said the juniors would follow a shorter route this year due to high river levels on the Thames.

He said: "The river Thames is flowing so fast with all the rain we've had. The red boards are out which means it's very dangerous."

Keith Bennett
Site director Keith Bennett said the juniors would follow a shorter route this year [BBC]

Jake Hickman, 16, said he had wanted to take part after seeing his brother compete last year.

"It's a great opportunity to push yourself," he said.

He said the biggest challenge would be being in the boat with someone for days without "falling out".

"Luckily I have a great partner, who I get on really well with," he added.

Bunting and a banner hanging from a bridge mark the start line
The race starts in Devizes Wharf [BBC]

On the senior doubles setting off on Saturday, Mr Bennett said water levels meant some may well get into difficulty but people were on hand to make sure they were safe and there were no "mishaps".

"We have ribs and other canoes and stuff on the Thames, going up and down, with the crews," he said.

"A lot of the senior doubles have done it before and they're just trying to beat their last year's time."

The annual event, which is held across four days each Easter, will finish on Monday.

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