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Dauntsey’s Paddlers Craft Their Own Challenge Amidst DW Race Disruption

Published by Dauntsey's on Thursday 4th of April 2024

Dauntsey’s pupils forged their own 101 mile canal challenge when adverse conditions altered the course of the 2024 Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race, showcasing enormous resilience and unity.

 Dauntsey’s has long been a supporter of the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race, and was one of the first schools to enter pupils into the Junior Race.  Over the past 40 years interest and enthusiasm for this challenge has grown amongst the school community, and it is showing no signs of waning, despite the enormity of this challenge. 

 Each year seven pairs of Lower Sixth pupils are entered into the race – with each pair dedicating extraordinary amounts of time from January through to Easter preparing for the race.  Aside from the physical preparation, the crews build up mental resilience and develop incredibly strong bonds with their teammates.  They learn to expect the unexpected and to cope when challenges are thrown their way.  No two DW races will ever be the same and the experience year on year will vary greatly.  2024 was no exception.

 Unprecedented amounts of rainfall resulted in conditions on the canal and river being deemed too unsafe for less experienced paddlers to continue on the DW course beyond Newbury, leading to around half of the registered junior crews withdrawing from the race at this point. 

 Keen to complete their challenge and earn their sponsorship money, the 2024 crews decided to create their own race which would see them complete over 100 miles on the canal over a three-day period.  On Good Friday, the seven boats completed the 34.5 miles to Newbury, they then camped overnight in Newbury before returning to Devizes and completing the same stretch on the Saturday.  After another night in a tent on Saturday the paddlers set off from Pewsey on Sunday morning and paddled to Bathampton, giving them a total distance of 101 miles.  

 The fact that all of these 101 miles were on the canal means that the crews were not able to take advantage of any significant flow to support them for any of the route - this makes the physical challenge, at least and arguably more, difficult than paddling 125 miles to Westminster where the flow of the Thames provides significant support for half of the distance.

 Dan Darwall, Dauntsey’s DW Coach and Race Organiser says:

“This year's paddlers have had to be more resilient than any I have known before, dealing with change after change.  Initially the race was shortened to Teddington, then to Reading and then finally to Newbury.  Each and every time the crews have voted to keep their mileage up over 100 miles, despite the extra challenges that presented. The mental resilience needed to paddle the same stretch of water twice, back-to-back, is extraordinary. Seasoned and experienced senior DW paddlers jaws dropped when they heard what they were doing.  I could not be prouder of the crews.”

 To date, the crews have raised over £2,000 for the school charity, Guide Dogs.  If you would like to donate please use the link below:


Dauntsey’s Paddlers Craft Their Own Challenge Amidst DW Race Disruption - Photo 1Dauntsey’s Paddlers Craft Their Own Challenge Amidst DW Race Disruption - Photo 2
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