National Canoe Slalom Derbyshire

As the Derwent Valley in the heart of Derbyshire was shrouded in foggy veil, competitors gathered on the riverbank on a chilly October morning for the Division 2/3 Canoe Slalom event in Matlock Bath organised by Matlock Canoe Club. This was a rescheduled competition that was postponed in April due to the River Derwent being very high as a consequence of the deluge that occurred at that time.

As the fog continued to drift above the water giving an ethereal atmosphere, the first competitors started to make their way through the red and green gates that marked out the complex course. Quite a few participants found the going tough, but with gritted teeth they battled against the fast-flowing water, which presented a significant challenge to them, particularly where the gates demanded an upstream entry.

There was a large field of over 60 competitors in the Division 2 men’s kayak competition, with Elliot Churcher from Winchester and Martin Oakland having the fastest, clear first runs with Oakland slightly quicker. In the second round, however, Churcher paddled a storming run, which was both clear and the fastest of the competition. Oakland made a huge effort but just clipped a gate gaining a 2-point penalty that unfortunately relegated him to second place. In the Division 2 women’s kayak competition, Lizzie Collins from Breakout CC achieved the fastest time but also picked up no less than 10 penalty points, which put her into fourth place after the first run with Akasha Smith of Llandysul taking the lead. In the second run Collin’s found her pace and with the quickest time and no penalties took first place with Clare Hawkins of Matlock Canoe Club just missing out to take second.

The sun began to burn off the mist, it was the turn of the competitors in the Division 2-3 C2 competition. The partnership of Nelson/Peart of Stoke showed they were a class apart and easily took first place although drama struck the Meridian team of Seamans/Playford when they leant downstream exiting one of the gates and capsized. The marshals were quickly on the scene though and guided the shaken pair to the safety of the riverbank. The welcomed sun began to illuminate the beautiful autumn colours below the imposing bastion of High Tor as Stafford & Stone’s Michael Owen showed great skill and determination in the Division 2 men’s Canadian competition to produce two very fast and clear runs to take first place ahead of Breakout CC’s Patrick Marriott.

The people in the cable cars going up to the Heights of Abraham were given a birds-eye view of the competition as the Division 3 competitor, Louis Askew of HPPCC produced two clear rounds to grab first place the men’s kayak event whilst Jessica Gravil of Green Star took the women’s event.

In the Canadian events Ben Moss of HPPCC just pipped Manchester’s Alexander Rubin to first place and Gemma Starks of Seren Dŵr took first place ahead of Matlock’s Hannah Matchett.

A pleasant smell of wood-fired pizza hung in the air like the morning’s mist had only hours erlier, weary figures carried their canoes back to their cars and chatted and about how good the course was and indeed how well organised the whole event had been. So congratulations to Matlock Canoe Club, it looks like you will have quite a few people returning to next year’s event.

A short film is to follow in the next week or so, but for now here is footage off an onboard camera. Please visit our gallery page to find more images from the event

Copy by Steve Gresty. Images by D Thorburn and S Gresty. Film by M Ludbrook & R Leake

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