GB Team Trip Report
Thanks to Lucy Guest for this trip report.
The start of the European tour started in Spain with the senior European championships.
The journey there was not plain sailing with a very bumpy ferry crossing, strangely many suffered from sea sickness. However once ashore there was some customs excitement and then a short drive to our accommodation.
The next day we got up early to go explore the course. The sight shocked many as this was first time they had been on rough water since the start of the pandemic. Another notably shock was how cold it was in the mornings sometimes reaching the warm heights of 5 degrees! Throughout the day we all started to get back into the swing of paddling on the rough water. We set the task of testing the different lines and making sure we got the fastest one as the temperature soon warmed up to 30+ degrees.
The course comprised of flat sections that had many boils followed by rapids and at the very end the sprint course with an extremely tricky finish. With only two days to learn, practice and perfect our lines we had to act efficiently, this meant testing different lines in pairs to see which was faster and pointing out key landmarks to tell which sections of the river were coming up. For example, one section there was a cliff right in front of a series of small rapids followed by a tight left-hand bend. Another landmark was an island right before the sprint course, this was key as the two lines down either side could be taken but after some considerable consideration the right was picked to be faster. The key to this course was to allow the flow to take you, this was evident on the sprint course, allowing the flow to take you to the right but bring you back to the left right before the first drop where you wanted to be on the left. You then continued the down the left of next drop following the corner round, kicking over to the right with the flow. This would set you up for the finish along as you resisted the flow on the second to last drop to stay right. The finish required cutting a corner, straight into a powerful eddy which would take a few attempts to master.
By Tuesday night everyone was feeling confident with the course just in time for the classic races the next day. Race days meant early starts as our accommodation was an hour away from the course. First up were Emma and Ellie who were given the opportunity to gain experience and race k1 as forerunners, they did an impressive job putting down times that would place them well in the competition. Next up was the Laura, Lucy, Mags, and Kerry in that order, they had the task of chasing each other. Everyone got down cleanly with Mags finishing in 15th, Laura in 16th. Kerry and Lucy finished in 9th and 10th which was a commendable result at only their second international, first senior competition and Kerry still being a junior. Next up were the boys with the highest placed finisher being Francis in 25th closely followed by Nick in 30th and Jacob and Alex finished a respective 35th and 36th. This was a notable result from Nick coming back from many shoulder dislocations.
Thursday was the turn of the team racing where anything can really happen. The teams comprised of the top three athletes from the classic races. The women’s team were fired up for a fight for the bronze medal but unfortunately the German team were too strong and sadly finished 20 seconds behind them to take 4th place. Nevertheless, their efforts should be rewarded as they managed to go 15 seconds faster than Mags’ k1 time something very difficult to do. The men’s team was Nick, Jacob, and Alex they finished a well-respected 8th.
Friday brought the first of the sprint heats which meant waking up even earlier at 6am and increase an in temperature to mid/high 30’s. Unfortunately, none of the girls managed to gain a top 5 place to give them automatic qualification to the final and would all require a second run. Next up were the boys who gained the same fate; however, a notable performance was from Alex who was in 20th but there was less than a second between 10th and 25th so it was all to play for in the second heat. In typical Spanish tradition a siesta was needed in the afternoon which meant second heat did not start till 4pm. Many cooled down in the river whilst a new way was found to keep water cool as temperatures soared. With many of the athletes being close to qualification for the final they knew the job in hand however it wasn’t to be. Kerry was the highest placed woman in 12th just missing out on the final, followed by Laura in 13th, Mags in 18th. Lucy was unfortunate to eddy out putting her down in 20th. Jacob was the highest placed man in 28th, Nick finished in 33rd and Alex finished 30th after a change of angle on his paddles at the start of his run. Spirits were still high, and thoughts turned to the team races. The women’s team consisted of Laura, Kerry, and Lucy the girls tried their hardest and were rewarded with another 4th place. The boys finished 8th with a team of Alex, Jacob, and Nick.
We also shouldn’t forget about our C2’s! Unfortunately, not enough countries entered this class to make it quorate, but our girls showed they were strong and force to be reckon with. Kerry and Emma finished first in the classic followed by Laura and Ellie. In the sprint race they were joined but a strong French team who took the win followed by Laura and Ellie and the Kerry and Emma. The girls showed some bright hope for British C2 racing.
Overall, it was thoroughly enjoyable trip with lots of improvements made, some promising results for the future and a new level of motivation to smash winter training ready for next year!
Next up it was the juniors and U23’s to shine and show what they could do in Solkan, Slovenia. The team were delayed getting out there due to broken trailers and mix ups with covid tests, but they all made it aboard the ferry for a smoother crossing this time! However, they were faced with more problems once in Europe, therefore had an unexpected stop overnight in Germany. The team were up bright and early Sunday morning to make it in good time to Solkan just in time for lunch. In the afternoon we paddled up from the finish of the classic looking at lines and seeing where the fastest flow was as this was a primarily flat course. We paddled up to mini rapids to the bottom of the sprint course, however we could not paddle on the course where the sprints would be held later in the week due to the slalom Europeans still being on. In one session we had managed to cement our lines on the classic deciding whether it was better to take the corners tights or go on the outside where there was a little bit more flow. This allowed us to spend the next two days focusing on the sprint course, which was simple, but any mistakes made would be costly. With such a big team of 24 we unfortunately couldn’t find accommodation that allowed us to stay together, which meant we had to split up into 3 groups and stay some distance apart.
The course in Solkan was primarily flat suiting some more than others. The sprint course was at the top of the classic course. The sprint course was easy to get down but tricky to complete successfully and to take the cleanest route down. It was easy to make mistakes with strong eddies as many discovered. For most of the course, you wanted to take a right-hand line, and accelerate down the flat into the next section of rough water taking the left line after a rock to the finish line avoiding the wave chain. After this it was primarily flat with just two easy rapids/ripples of water to negotiate and deciding how close to take the bends whilst avoiding shallow water. After this it was just a case of digging deep to the finish. Throughout the next two days after sprint practice with followed this with a classic run picking out points remind us to pick it up during the race.
Wednesday provided us with the first race of the classic where the juniors were the first to the course. The U23 made the decision to stay at their accommodation and protect themselves from the heat but they eagerly watched the live results. The junior girls were up, and Emma was first to go having a clean run and powering to the finish 20th, Molly on her first international finished 17th just four seconds in front, some inspiring results form the two youngest of the team with a year still as juniors. Katie was unlucky with an eddy out early on keeping her lower down in the ranks. One of the performances of the championships goes to Kerry. Carrying on her prime form from Spain, she set down a marker of over a minute quicker than the current leaders, something that would prove extremely challenging as those who followed went slower. It came down to the second to last padder to edge out Kerry from the top spot by just five seconds. Kerry finished with a silver medal a fine start to her last year as a junior. The junior boys had big shoes to fill after that performance by Kerry, but they did not disappoint. The junior boy’s class was the biggest class there, so it was going to be very hard to medal. Joe led the way finishing 23rd, followed by Leon in 29th and Huw in 30th and Sam in 38th. A very good set of results for the young team at their first international and with many years still left to climb the ranks. It was a swift change for Huw, who would pair up with Ed in c2 to finish 9th, followed by Ryan and Findlay in 11th showing the strength of the upcoming C2’s in Britain. A very good results for the junior who for the majority it was their first international competition.
It was now the turn of the more experienced U23’s. Unfortunately, we only had two U23 women competing in Lois and Lucy. Lois was off first and finished 20th, Lucy powered through on the flat to finish 6th and excellent result in her first year an U23. Next up the boys, the classic not being their favourite distance, they still putout a good showing. Francis was the first British in 21st, followed by Spencer who was making a return to the sport after double dislocations and Alex in 27th and 28th and then Freddie in 32nd.
Next up was the return of the C2’s Cameron and Leon were up first finishing 8th. It was then time for Kerry and Emma to return to the water, on the buzz from Kerry’s success earlier, the girls were ready to give it their all. The junior and U23 c2 women had been combined due to the lack of team entered meaning the girls were some of the youngest on the start line. An exciting race where they overtook the French duo saw them set a hard marker to beat. It came down to the last crew, an U23 Italian duo with loads of international experience and medals to beat them by 0.7 of a second, an amazing result by the girls.
That night the calculations for the team races were worked out as a junior girl would race up in the U23’s. The teams were then decided as Emma, Molly, and Kerry for the junior girls, they tried their hardest, finishing a credible 6th. It was just not to be with other teams coming through strong but valuable lessons were learned. Next up was the boy’s team of Huw, Joe, and Leon for most this was their first team race, they finished 8th and manged to go faster than all of their times from the day before. That was an achievement in itself as something so incredibly hard to do. Some really good races for the youngsters and promising results for the future.
Next up were the U23’s the team of Lucy, Lois and junior Katie, they finished 5th after some quick thinking from Lucy to change the formation to protect members of the team led to them also going faster than both Lois and Katie’s k1 times. The U23s boys of Francis, Spencer and Alex worked well to finish 9th. For the first time in many years, we fielded a men’s C2 team with the two junior C2’s racing up in U23 for little experience they did well to finish 5th and only 2 minutes off a very strong Czech team.
Friday brought the first day of sprinting and some medal possibilities. The junior ladies were up first, they needed a top 5 finish to automatically qualify for the final. Sadly, the girls did not gain any of these spots with little mistakes down the course slowing them down. Something they looked to correct for their second run. The girls gave it their all on their second runs making improvements however their efforts were not enough to progress to the final. Kerry finished 17th followed by Emma in 20th Molly in 21st and Katie finished in 25th. The junior boys followed with Sam impressing by finishing 15th however due to only the top 5 directly going to the final, as second run was required by Sam and the other boys. The second run went better for some more than others, unfortunately a good run wasn’t enough on race day. Sam finished 23rd closely followed by Leon in 25th, Joe and Huw were further down the field in 37th and 41st. The two C2’s, last of our junior competitions followed with both requiring a second run. Ryan and Findlay put down a good run to qualify in 4th place for the final. Unfortunately, Huw and Ed missed out on the final by one place. However, a good outing for one of the youngest crews in the competition and a bright future ahead.
The U23 category is super competitive with the top U23 medalling and winning at senior level so the U23’s had their work cut-out. First up was Lois placing 15th on her first run and good marker but would require a second perfect run to make sure she qualified to the final. Lucy had a hard time being taken off the flow into the eddy but kept her cool and carried on down the right-hand side of the course joining back into flow further on, this put her in last place requiring a second run. Lucy was first down having an excellent top section putting the marker down for the other athletes. Lois followed however it was not meant to be her day with a mistake on the top section slowed her down. They finished 18th and 19th respectively. The U23 boys were up next and struggled with their first runs requiring a second run to take a final spot. Francis was up first finishing 31st followed by Alex in 42nd and Spencer in 29th. Freddie put out a stunning run to gain 6th place and qualify for tomorrow’s final.
The C2 stars of Kerry and Emma put down a fine run to safely make it to the final. The U23 boys C2 team of Cameron and Leon followed that of the girls qualify straight to the final.
Saturday was the final day of racing and the end of the European tour. Ryan and Findley kicked things off in the junior C2 final finishing 10th next up was Freddie in the men’s k1 and a first major international final, he finished a credible 7th in very tight racing. Kerry and Emma were out again in the U23 women’s C2 final finishing 4th just two seconds of the podium for the junior crew. The final outing in the individual finals came from Cameron and Leon in the U23 C2 finishing 8th.
In the afternoon it was the turn of the teams where sprint is even more unpredictable. The junior girl team of Emma, Molly and Katie were up first and looking good and tightly together but mistakes further down would leave them out of contention in 7th place. The same happened with the junior boys’ team of Leon, Huw, and Sam finishing 4 days of racing with a 10th place. The opportunity provided as a great learning curve ready to smash it next time for these young teams. Kerry, Lucy and Lois were next down looking really smooth and tightly packed together, getting down the course cleanly and crossing across the line together, they finished 5th, a really bright future for them with just two seconds of the podium in their first year as U23’s. The boy’s team of Freddie, Alex and Francis were up next having a great opportunity to make their mark. Sadly, a mistake at the top of the course involving an eddy kept them down on the leader board finishing 10th.
A mention has to go to Molly and Lois for jumping in a C1 to make the classes quorate and Lucy for joining them for the C1 team, excellent sportsmanship and watch this space!
After the closing ceremony, dinner that was not pasta and attempts at trying to swap kit, it was time to start the long journey home. To make the journey easier we travelled two and a half hours to Austria and stayed the night. The next day we were up at 5:30am to leave at 6am to start the journey across Germany to the Netherlands for our overnight ferry back to the UK. The journey ran smoother than on the way out and we arrived back in Nottingham mid-morning, shattered after a week of learning, and developing our skills but highly motivated and inspired to work hard to smash it next year. The performances were exciting and show a real future for the young team.