Ghent Marathon

Ghent International Marathon Development Tripby Matt Hinves

We arrived at Elmbridge Canoe club at 6:20 and loaded our boats onto the trailer. We were then told what bus we were on and then put our kit on these buses and left for 7. We drove to maidstone services had a quick stop and then on to the tunnel.

We arrived in Belgium to nice sunny weather and strong winds. We soon got on the water and in groups of age we set out on a trip around the course. We then all arrived at the portage and spent about an hour practicing it. Then we went to the hotel where we were all placed in nice rooms of two. A few hours later we went for dinner in the hotel which was a big buffet. After dinner we all went back up and everyone came in our room, we watched a bit of red nose day and had discussions with some new people. We got an early night ready for the big race.

We woke up at around 8 so it wasn’t too early and we went down and had breakfast in a similar system to dinner. Then it was time to head for the race course. When we got down there it was so windy we all knew it was going to be an exciting race. We had a briefing where James the team leader told us there was another portage which looked particularly difficult, up a very steep hill, along a concrete path with strong winds and then back down a steep hill to the water. We then checked our boats out, got our vests and got on the water, warming up ready to race.

On the start line we all had to line up in number order which wasn’t as hard as it sounded. We were then started, with all of the faster boys on the far side so the top group formed quite quickly, with 5 GB boys and a Belgian. The other GB boys came back at us after about 500 metres but the Belgian quickly noticed and took the group to the turn. It was a hard turn, crossing across the wind and the regatta lake in a big group of 6. Me and another boy were dropped but we quickly caught up again. We then came into the portage, I was last out in the group and with a few other boys boats being blown side-on I couldn’t run past them. I got in last and I was a fair way behind the others. I quickly caught up the first and dropped him, I then caught another and with the Belgian dropping the 2 front GB guys I knew I could catch them. When the boy I was with crashed into the bridge as we turned onto the river I took the opportunity and caught them up with ease.

It was once I had done this that I noticed my boat was filling up with water. I thought it was because I had put a hole in it when I banged it on the portage but when I took it up one of the other boys told me that my rudder hatch was out and not only was it dragging in the water, because it was attached with string, it was also filling up through the open hole. This actually filled me with confidence because I had caught them up with it out and dragging, so I knew I had the speed to beat them. We stayed as a group all the way round with a few failed attempts to put my rudder hatch back in. Then we came to the portage I stopped to empty and put the hatch back on, by which time the others were long gone and I had a long rest of the race by myself.

When I got back on the regatta course the wind was huge and so were the waves usually this would favour me but because the rudder hatch wasn’t on – as I’d just put it inside the boat – I was filling up with water, so the final part was a huge drag, however I kept the pace high and kept my position, even closing the top boys to just 14 seconds and finishing in 4th.

Once the races had finished we went and got a McDonald’s and then went back to the Canoe Club for prize giving. We then had a good trip back home with much more fun as we all knew each other and then we arrived at Elmbridge ready to go home.