Dordogne Integrale

Argentat, 27th May 2017

Ceri Salisbury

So, a day later I can think properly about the Dordogne Integrale race. This time yesterday I was trying to sleep while my bed felt like it was bobbing down a rapid, and my addled mind was making complicated calculations about distances to the next stop.

Firstly, the photos don't lie - the Dordogne is a breathtakingly beautiful river from Argentat to Castelnaud, with everything from chateaus to caves to white cliffs to mountains covered with oaks.
In terms of our race, the CCC boats, mine and the K2 of Lucia and Nanette, edged their way forward over the start line at 6.20am, along with around two hundred other boats of wildly varying sizes and shapes. In an unfamiliar and disturbingly tippy boat, on a wide and fairly fast river, my start was more of a cautious tiptoeing forward, but the girls blazed off in the front bunch, leaving wash and cheering behind them. At first I allowed caution to be the better part of valour, and was overtaken by sea kayaks, old ladies and combinations of the two.


The first forty-five kilometres of the race are the most interesting, technically, with a few nice rapids (I could see why some crews put large and un-aerodynamic blocks of foam on the front of their boats), a fish chute and lastly a smallish weir that I saw in the videos  and thought looked a peach.

By this time a few things had happened. Well up in the top ten, Lucia and Nettie had had a bad wrap at the chute and after some hair-raising moments made it out alive and more or less unscathed, but with a somewhat battered boat and sans spraydecks and paddles. I came past a few minutes later and saw the doom-laden tableau of Nicolás and Rodrigo bending over a boat on the bank; and although Oliver, on the footbridge above, politely applauded my frantic paddling down the channel, I could see he was distracted. Rodrigo shouted to look for the paddles, and this was actually something of a relief, since the girls were nowhere sight and I thought for a horrified moment he was going to ask me to look for bodies.

I continued on, a bit unsettled, and one of many wobbles turned into a swim that took me a few minutes to conclude. In my swimming I failed to get on the downstream side of the boat, so it filled with water and I gave thanks mentally to the club that owns the boat and had put in just enough buoyancy. Eventually I made it to the side and got myself together and back in the boat, only to find that the pressure of the water on the rudder while I was swimming, along with some appalling oversteering at corners, had snapped the metal pin holding the rudder to the boat, and while paddling in circles has a certain dizzy charm, one can't do it for a hundred kilometres.
Leaving the boat on the bank, I took a leisurely walk through an industrial estate, a small village, a large village and eventually found my way back to the first checkpoint (there were six checkpoints/food stops on the race, none of them compulsory portages - in fact, one could go from start to finish without getting out of the boat. A nice change from DW and canal paddling generally).


I reached the checkpoint just as the salvage crew were about to drive down to the next one to see me. Up til this point I'd assumed the race was over for us and team CCC could go home to drink wine and fix boats. It was not to be. Less than two minutes after getting back to my boat, Nico and Rodrigo had the rudder reattached with cable ties, and me back in the boat, not quite sure how it had happened, and mildly affronted that I had to keep paddling, when a big part of me (mainly the part I sit on) really, really wanted to stop. I secretly hoped the rudder would come detached again and I could stop at the next checkpoint. Unfortunately they teach boat repairing well in Asturias (I blame the Sella) and the rudder worked perfectly.

Now came the weir, which I had been anticipating with mixed feelings. On one hand, it really didn't look that big in the pictures, and I get few opportunities nowadays to really get down with the local crayfish, anyway. On the other, I wasn't confident in the boat, and a swim could have had serious consequences. So I was coming towards the optional portage thinking I should be sensible, but everyone was standing on the bank cheering and I felt half a century of South African paddlers calling shame down on my head and I decided I couldn't live with myself if I didn't do it. In short, I shot (not exactly in style) and I made (barely, with a big wobble). Thoroughly pumped, I thought 'onwards!' and drank the last my water.


I was now an hour and a half down. The first crew that I had passed after the repair were in a skiff and surrounded by a genial haze, so I knew I had some ground to make up. The SUP-ers were going relatively slowly (yes, people do this race on SUPs - 150 this year, set off shortly before the sit-down craft, and finishing surprisingly soon after them), so they were good markers to aim for.
The next stop was the halfway point, at sixty five kilometres, and I was incredibly glad to see Lucia, Rodrigo and Nico, waiting with energy gels, bars, proper drink and encouragement. It reminded me vividly of DW 2016 when another crew's race was cut short and this identical trio jumped in their car and supported my boat all the way to the end. I don't know how many supporting credits I owe these guys, but at this rate they're all going to have to do multiple DWs so that I can repay them.

After the weir it was really just grinding out the miles, and I had the chance to appreciate how much more I have to learn about reading rivers. There were no more real rapids, but just staying in the fast water proved too much for me,  time and time again. But I got to look at the spectacular scenery, practise my French on the paddlers I overtook (one of whom was the elderly lady in a plastic sea kayak who, it transpired, had been the third female K1 up until that point), and generally appreciate the experience.

I think the second half took me about five hours, which I was reasonably happy with. But mostly I was just happy I got to experience the fantastic Dordogne Integrale. Now it's time to enjoy a bit more holiday and then go back to work and explain why I need a cushion on my desk chair.  
Massive thanks to the people and clubs that made it all happen! Bring it on #DordogneIntegrale2018.


Date: 11 December 2016

9:45 - Check-in opens
10:45 - Race Briefing
11:00 - First competitors allowed on water to warm up
11:50 - First competitors mustered towards pre-start
12:00 - Race start
15:00 - Prizegiving

Classes 1-4  -  7 miles  - 4 portages
Classes 6-12  -  5 miles  - 4 portages
Classes 13-21  -  3 miles  -  2 portages

Race Organiser: Donna Griffin (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). Please note Donna will be away from 27th November to 7th December in her absence please contact Peter Vaughan (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Safety Notes:
Event Safety Officer – Donna Griffin
Risk Assessment -  Attached
Safety Plan (Passage Plan and Event Activity Plan) -  Attached

In addition, please note that

  • Paddlers must ensure that their boats have sufficient buoyancy to support the boat and crew in the event of capsizing. Boats will be checked.
  • All competitors must be able to swim 50m in canoe clothing.

Location & Parking:
Booking in & launching will take place at Cambridge Canoe Club clubhouse, Lammas Lane, Cambridge. There is a small public car park (Free) at the end of Lammas Lane. Please note this fills up quickly and it is coming up to Christmas so the shoppers will be about. We are arranging for the barrier to go down at 9am to allow you early access.
Additional car Parking is available on the roads in the surrounding area but some of this is subject to metered fees.

Cam Marathon 2016

Cambridge, 20th March 2016

Congratulations to everyone who was involved - what a success!
Slick organisation, great cake stand, and even some sunshine - and a good day by all.

There are too many to name, but notable performances came from Ali L and Steffi winning K2 Div 8 and earning promotion to Div 7, Paul and Alice winning K2 Div 5 and getting promoted to Div 4, Lucia winning K1 Div 6 with promotion to Div 5, Chris coming second in Div 7, with promotion to Div 6, and the Junior boys K2 Colin and Sebastian getting bronze in the Div 9 K2.

We came second club in Hasler points, and currently stand in fourth place in the region - lets keep up the good work.

Well done to all those involved on and off the water, and a big thank you to all the non-racers who came down to help pitch in with food, cleaning and race organisation.

PS: Check out the video from David's on-board camera:


Bedford Hasler 2016

1st May 2016

Bedford marathon was held on May Day, a nice stretch of river with the added bonus of sunshine!

Winning performances came from Chris and Pete, destroying the K2 Div 6 field, Donna and Neil in Div 8 K2, Oli and Ceri in Div 5 K2. Silver medals were won by Alice and Paul (to a higher ranked crew) in the Div 4 K2 race and Lucia in her first Div 5 K1 race.

bedford2016 start div6k2

Full cambridge results below.

Congratulations to all those that raced, and helped bring in the Hasler points.

Next race is Norwich marathon on 22nd May - great racing location, so lets make the most of it and get a big team there. Hopefully there will be sunshine and ice cream too!

bedford2016 paul and alice

Cambridge Bedford results:

Div 2 K1 - Rodrigo 5th
Div 3 K1 - Piran 12th
Div 4 K1 - Dan 12th (with a swim)
Div 5 K1 - Lucia 2nd, Christian 5th (also with a swim).
Div 6 K1 - Maria 7th
Div 4 K2 - Alice /Paul 2nd
Div 5 K2 - Oli /Ceri 1st
Div 6 K2 - Pete /Chris 1st
Div 7 K2 - Ali / Steffi 6th, Penny /David 7th
Div 8 K2 - Donna / Neil 1st.

 bedford2016 rodrigo

And, of course, we won't deprive you of some race action footage from David's on-board camera:

Photos (c) 2016 by Chris Worrall. See the full album here.

Devizes to Westminster 2016

26/27th March 2016

A small army of Cambridge Canoe Club paddlers headed out to Devizes this Easter to race or support the 125 mile DW race, often known as the "canoeists Everest" - the longest non-stop canoe/kayak race in the world.

After months of preparation Cambridge CC had entries in three classes: Maria Worrall took on the ladies K1 race, which is run over four days in stages.
Freddie Purcell (racing for Richmond) with Rodrigo Hortal went in to the non-stop overnight race as favourites to win the Men's K2/overall race, and Oli North and Ceri Salisbury started as favourites in the mixed Doubles non-stop race.


Maria started the race on Good Friday, in sunshine and warm temperatures. However, the pleasant conditions didn’t last long. Weather is notoriously unpredictable at Easter, adding to the challenge of this race. This year Storm Katie threw everything at the competitors: 40mph winds, heavy rains and hail storms all made the racing on Saturday and Sunday even more challenging. Maria successfully completed the first three, (the longest three days) of the race, from Devizes to Teddington – on the outskirts of London. Unfortunately the final day of the stages race was cancelled as Storm Katie created unsafe conditions for the final 17-mile stretch down the tideway to Westminster, and instead competitors were awarded their medals in a damp windy field in greater London. Frustrated to not have had the opportunity to paddle under Westminster Bridge, (but still a great achievement to complete the first three days) I’m sure Maria will be back next year, for that obligatory photo with finishers Medal posed in front of Big Ben.

Oli and Ceri set off at 10.15am on Saturday, in pouring rain and howling winds. They set off on a 22 hour time schedule, and settled in quickly to maintain a solid pace which allowed them to constantly edge ahead of their predicted time schedule.

Freddie and Rodrigo set off much later, around 2.45pm (the aim is for all crews to get to Teddington, the 110 mile mark at high tide. If you arrive too early you are held until the tide turns, and too late you need to wait until the second evening tide - 12 hours later).

Oli and Ceri looked strong throughout, as the night fell the conditions improved as Storm Katie abated. Throughout the night Oli and Ceri kept their spirits high (well mostly) and despite the challenge of darkness and multiple hours paddling they kept increasing their speed. They were professional, strong and worked together throughout the long night paddle. Helped on by a support crew of Donna, Neil, Christian, Pete C, Nettie and Oli’s brother Robin, the crew were kept warm and well fed. By the time they reached Windsor, they were more than an hour ahead of their predicted schedule, and still getting faster! Very impressive after nearly 90 miles of non stop paddling, 15 or so hours. As they approached the outskirts of London, it was apparent that they may be too early for the tide, but thankfully they reached the tideway just at the opening of the "tide window" and could pass through this check point without delay.


It was all going so well, and according to the DW trackers, they were set to finish in well under 21 hours… but disaster struck. The tideway - the final 17 mile stretch into central London - takes the paddlers past famous sites such as Battersea power station and Tate Britain, and under the iconic London bridges to the finish at Big Ben at Westminster. It is by far the toughest part of the race. After paddling for 20 plus hours, to paddle this wide, bumpy fast flowing stretch of the river is a huge challenge (think sea kayaking in a racing boat!). By this point the crews are exhausted. Oli and Ceri struggled with balance, they mustered enough energy to paddle to Lambeth Bridge, where they were just 800m from the finish line, unfortunately here one big wobble caused them to capsize. Unable to swim to the bank due to the strong flow, and nearly instant hypothermia from the cold river and exhaustion, they were unable to complete the final 800m to the finish line in their K2, and instead crossed it at high speed in a rescue boat. Heartbreaking, as they were in spitting distance of the finish, (but relieved to be safe). Despite the final swim, the chief umpire of the DW race awarded them an official finish time, which has earned them a second place in the Mixed Race. The first UK crew, as the mixed race was won by an international crew (from Michigan, USA) who set a very impressive new record in the mixed C2 class!

Freddie and Rodrigo, were supported by Lucia from Cambridge CC, three paddlers from Richmond CC and a friend of Rodrigo’s, Nico, who travelled over from Paris just for the weekend! The boys faced a lot of pressure, with the “runners and riders” list, published a week or so before the race placing them as favourites to win – but against a tough field of experienced and international crews.

Despite great preparation and a solid winter of training, this was not to be their year. Freddie became unwell early on in the race, not being able to keep any food or water in his stomach. Despite the chundering, the boys kept pushing for another 2 or 3 hours, keeping a steady speed. But this took its toll: Not being superhuman, continuous exercise does not mix well with continuous vomiting! Freddie blacked out at Reading (having either fallen/collapsed or blacked out five times prior to this) and his support crew mustered around him to look after a now very unwell paddler. Freddie showed great determination to continue as long as he did, but it was not possible to continue. The boys retired at Reading, around midnight.

Rodrigo decided that it wasn’t time to go home, despite having paddled 54 miles. Instead Lucia, Rodrigo and Nico joined Oli and Ceri’s support crew to support Oli and Ceri down the last 40 miles of the race – a fantastic show of support, and a great club spirit! This was hugely appreciated in the exhausting early hours on Easter Sunday morning.

Despite none of our paddlers getting to paddle under Westminster Bridge, and the huge disappointment that goes with this, they should all be proud of what they did achieve during a very difficult race as well as the fantastic results they generated in the Waterside series that led up to the DW event.

The DW race is like no other, it is a huge challenge, and I am sure they will all be back next year more determined than ever.

For more information, or if you fancy taking up the challenge yourself see the DW website and speak to any of the racers.


Photos: (1) by Chris Worrall (c) 2016, (2) by Christian Wehrenfennig (c) 2016