After an early promise of some sunshine the day proved cold and rather damp. There were still some punts about to add an extra challenge to the proceedings as the race wound its way through the historic backs.
As usual almost a quarter of the competitors had come to take part in the doubles race, which this time had a sufficient number of MC2s participating to justify a separate start.
After missing an entire season due to the pandemic, it was good to see the Winter Series running again - especially as this is 2021, the 40th anniversary of the series being formalised. It was therefore particularly appropriate that the start and finish marshals for the day were Ron and Alison Thorogood, winners respectively of the Senior Mens K1 and Senior Ladies K1 series trophies back in the 1981/82 season!
The trend towards doubles racing continued, with 20 K2s and one C2 entering Class 9. Women are increasingly well represented, with the gold, silver and bronze medals in Class 9 all going to mixed crews. There were also three all-female crews in this class.
The Mens Veterans race (Class 7) was the second biggest class with 16 entrants, so that taken together with Class 9, these two classes made up over half the competitors present.
Ali Kabeer from Wokingham, won Class 5 (u16 MK1) in a time of 44:43 and thus came quite close to beating the 5-mile course record for the Stortford race, which was set at 43:03 in 2010 by Lewis Duffield.
A total of 109 competitors took part, drawn from twelve different clubs. Despite sending a much smaller team than usual, Chelmsford were still dominated the event and won easily (210 points), with Stortford second (119) and Leighton Buzzard third (83).
Following the recent AGM it has been decided that it will not be possible to hold a 2020/2021 Winter Series. All the clubs involved in hosting the races each feel that the difficulties of staging a race under the current conditions are just too challenging. The committee will be meeting again in February to consider whether a Sprint Series will be possible over the summer months.
The FRA committee is also acutely aware that having called off the final race of last series due to Storm Ciara, and no racing occurring since due to the pandemic, there has been no opportunity to get your trophies to you from last season. It has been decided that we will not give out the perpetual trophies this year, but instead we will have all the trophies engraved at the FRA's expense (where engraving applies). We are sorry for any disappointment this causes. If you would like to have a photo of the trophy sent to you, we can arrange this.
We will however be distributing the commemorative glasses to all those who came first, second or third in their class. We are making arrangements to pass these to the participating clubs so that they can pass them on to their members. Independent paddlers are being contacted separately to work out how we can best get them to you.
The complete list of award winners can be found on the WS results page.
The penultimate race of the series was hosted by Leighton Buzzard CC and was thankfully free of the snow experienced at Leighton Buzzard's first Winter Series (2018) or the ice which caused the cancellation of the 2019 event. Even the rain held off until the race was over.
One hundred competitors took part.
The final race in the series will be held at Leaside on 9 February, when all the perpetual trophies and series awards will also be presented.
Chelmsford put out their biggest team of the series to date for their home race, bringing the total entries to 126 paddlers. The line up included Chelmsford stars Keith Moule and Emma Russell who each won their respective races and were the fastest paddlers over the 8 and 5 mile courses.
The penultimate race of this series will be taking place at Leighton Buzzard on Sunday 26th January.
Things to bear in mind are
Class perpetual trophies
For each class there is also a perpetual cup/shield to take home for the year, and some classes have more than one perpetual trophy associated with them:
Lovely paddling weather was enjoyed by the 101 competitors who gathered at Herts Young Mariners Base at Cheshunt for the last Winter Series race before Christmas.
The most popular class was, as usual, the senior doubles, with a total of 17 entries. No fewer than five of these were MC2s, with the canoeists all electing to compete over the 7-mile course with the senior K2s rather than 5 miles against the junior K2s.
There was also a good number of entries for the Mens Vet class which featured a close finish between Almir Balla and second-placed Doug Herbert, with just 9 seconds between them.
Chelmsford CC, were the overall winners, with Bishops Stortford CC second and Leighton Buzzard CC third. The same pattern is repeated in the league positions of the three clubs at this half-way point in the series.
The full race results are on the Winter Series results page. There are also a few photos of the race on Flickr.
The next race will be at Chelmsford on 12th January.
It was a bright but chilly day for the Cambridge marathon and the race proved as popular as ever, with pre-entries at one point approaching 180 competitors. A few were unable to make it on the day leaving 154 participants - still a very high turnout.
The home team were able to muster a large team themselves and secured a very well-deserved second place overall, behind the inevitable winners Chelmsford CC.
Despite Stortford having to announce that it was unable to provide on-site parking for everyone this year, the opening race of the Winter Series still attracted 131 competitors. Ten clubs participated as teams, and 6 more were represented amongst the Independent entries.
Canoes were very much in evidence, thanks to a healthy 6 entries in the TC2 class, where numbers have been dwindling for the past few years.
One of the stand-out performances of the day came from Wokingham CC paddler Ali Kabeer paddling as an Independent, who smashed the boys K1 record for the short course with his time of 25:57. The record previously stood at 27:52, set in 2013 by Tim Gannicott Porter of Chelmsford. Ali of course won gold in the u14MK1 class. See the updated list of course records.
The full race results are on the Winter Series results page. There are also a few photos of the race on Flickr here. The next race will be at Cambridge on 1st December.