BRITAIN’S top male and female kayakers have teamed up to take on the 125 mile Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race over Easter and look set to beat the fastest all-male crews entered in the non-stop marathon epic.
Keith Moule of Chelmsford Canoe Club and Lizzie Broughton of Richmond Canoe Club have already set the fastest-ever mixed doubles times in the build-up series of four races held on the Kennet and Avon Canal, comfortably beating all the men’s crews entered.
“If they succeed in winning the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race as well, they’ll be the first mixed crew ever to do so,” said race director Martin Deaves. “We are set for a very exciting race, whatever happens.”
Broughton is the current World silver medallist in canoe marathon while Moule, a former 200m specialist, has dominated selection races for the Great Britain team so far this year.
“I don’t fear the race anymore,” said Moule, who is no stranger to pushing the boundaries. “I often set myself unrealistic targets in training, then work as hard as I can to try and achieve them. I don't think anyone thought Lizzie and I, a mixed crew, would be the fastest crew overall on the build-up races, beating the best men’s crews, but we were.”
The race also attracts its fair share of celebrities. This year TV presenter and adventurer Steve Backshall, a recent Strictly Come Dancing contestant, will be paddling in a K2 with his partner George Barnicoat from Falcon Canoe Club in Oxford. They are aiming to finish in less than 20 hours in the non-stop race.
“Training has been going really well since January,” said Backshall. “ I have done the race before, but never tried to do in such a fast time. The last time I did it, I remember stopping for a three course dinner, a hot shower and chatting to supporters all the way down the course.
“This year will be totally different and who knows how we will both cope in the early hours, after no sleep and hours of paddling.”
Fancied crew Moule and Broughton are aiming to break the 37-year old course record for the event of 15 hours 34 minutes set by Newbury paddler Tim Cornish and Brian Greenham in 1979 and, said Cornish: “I don’t know Lizzie and Keith personally, but I wish them the best for their record attempt. The times they have been doing certainly put them in with a great shout of the DW record. It’s great to see paddlers of their calibre giving the DW a full go.”
The race, first staged in 1948, sees paddlers cover 125 miles and 77 locks, the first 52 miles of which are along the Kennet and Avon Canal to Reading where competitors take to the River Thames for 55 before running down the final 17 mile section on the tidal Thames to Westminster.
Senior doubles non-stop race starts in Devizes on Saturday with the leading finishers due at Westminster Bridge around 6.30am ion r Sunday, while a four-day stages race sets off on Good Friday and is due to reach Westminster from 6.45am on Easter Monday.