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Bishop's Stortford Canoe Club come second behind Chelmsford on the Stort in first round of Winter Series

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Bishop's Stortford Canoe Club made an excellent start to the Winter Series on their home water.

They welcomed paddlers from 10 clubs for the first inter-club event on the Stort in two years due to the pandemic.

Stortford came second overall on the day behind Chelmsford and ahead of Leighton Buzzard, and scored enough points to take pole position in the race for the Dick Grieve Trophy, which is based solely on the performances of novice juniors.

The start of the senior doubles race (52992766)
The start of the senior doubles race (52992766)

Although the total number of competitors was somewhat reduced at 109, the presence of a loyal core of top-class paddlers ensured the standard was as high as ever. Some of the older competitors have been regular participants in the Winter Series – which is celebrating its 40th year – since they were in the junior classes.

The most popular of the classes was the senior doubles race on the seven-mile course in which 21 crews took part. It was won by Chelmsford pair Matt Johnson and Leah Falltrick, the current holders of the class trophy, who completed the trip from Southmill Lock to Sawbridgeworth and back, including six portages around locks, in 55min 42sec.

Stortford's fastest pair were Chris Sze and Mark Adams who were ninth in 1hr 6min 26sec. Not far behind them were Stortford's Kerstin Queeney and Catherine Ayling, who not only took the medals for the first all-ladies' crew (11th overall) but whose time of 1:09.59 was tantalisingly close to the ladies' K2 course record of 1:09.20

Stortford's Dave Hallam (boat 704) at the start of the men's veteran singles race (52992755)
Stortford's Dave Hallam (boat 704) at the start of the men's veteran singles race (52992755)

Over the same course in the singles kayak race there was a photo finish between Tim Gannicott Porter (Chelmsford) and Stortford's Adam Beaumont. Although the latter finished a nose in front, it was his rival who took gold in 56.06 after a time penalty for an infraction knocked Beaumont back to fifth place.

The men's veteran (over-35) race attracted the second largest field of the day with 16 competitors, again covering the seven miles to Sawbridgeworth, and Doug Herbert from Chelmsford won gold in 1:03.51. Dave Hallam brought Stortford's best result in the class as he finished fifth in 1:12.05 and was awarded the medal for first UltraVet (over-60).

Jack Gaulton, who came fifth in the under-16 boys' kayak in 58.48, was Stortford's fastest paddler on the five-mile course, which went upstream from Southmill Lock to the town centre and downstream to Spellbrook Lock before completing the circuit to Southmill, with three portages along the route.

On the same course, the gold medal for under-16 girls' kayak was taken for Stortford by Eilidh White in 1:05.40.

Stortford's under-14 and under-12 medallists (52992752)
Stortford's under-14 and under-12 medallists (52992752)

The home club were well represented on the three-mile course, a circuit which begins by going upstream to the town centre and then downstream as far as Twyford Lock (Pig Lane) before finishing back at Southmill Lock.

Edward Kirtland, in the under-14 boys' kayak, had the misfortune to be capsized within a few paddle strokes of the start line in a collision with another paddler and it took some time before he could climb back into his boat. Nevertheless, he still qualified for a bronze medal in 33.16.

His brothers Jasper (36.58) and Rupert Kirtland (48.03) won silver and bronze respectively in the under-12 boys' race while Libby Gaulton and Emilie Klumpler took gold and silver medals respectively in the under-12 girls' race in 35.53 and 50.30.

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