Canoe Focus Winter 2017 - Page 64

64 65 The Cheshire Ring Race is a long distance challenge. 96 miles, 92 locks and 5 tunnels have to be navigated, ideally in less than 24 hours. It started as a lads and dads event 40 years ago in 1977 when the Cheshire ring canal network was re-opened. Poynton canoe club (which became Macclesfield and District Canoe club, MADCC) organised the first race. It has been run annually since then apart from 2001, the foot and mouth year. Despite the Cheshire Ring Race being organised by Macclesfield and District Canoe Club, the club have never, until this year, entered an all ladies team. Neil Evans, a club coach had been trying for a number of years to persuade enough ladies to have a go. Finally in 2016, he succeeded. Training was scheduled to start in January and Neil organised ergo sessions with video feedback. In addition, the club had weekly pool sessions and we were encouraged to attend whenever possible. Outdoor sessions were held on the Macclesfield canal and these were more popular as the weather became warmer. As spring turned into summer Neil convinced us our technique was improving and began the task of making up the 5 pairs. Once this had been established, we were encouraged to train with our partners. Neil was there at least twice a week to support, coach and encourage us - he had us doing portage work, very important given the large number of locks. We decided to call ourselves the MADCC women’s team ( Neil’s Riotous Potatoes). The latter a reference to the Macclesfield Potato Riot in 1812, and Neil’s gardening activities. On Saturday June 24th we assembled at Poynton. The boats and our equipment were checked by the marshals and with a predicted finish time of 23 hours we had been allocated an 08.30 start. Teams are started in descending order, the slowest first with the aim of everyone being back early on Sunday morning. Our spirits were high and the weather was warm and dry. Feryal and Julia paddled off to the cheers of the supporters. Safely reaching Marple, Natalie and Margaret took over for a run past the locks. 16 of them, and 2 tunnels, so they were kept busy. Rose and Charlotte went next, arriving in good time at Ashton. Mother and daughter, Helen and Vicky had the difficult paddle to Manchester with 18 locks to be portaged. Anna was to go next but had no partner. Neil sent Margaret with her as she had done this leg previously. There are 9 locks, a run underground and a run along the famous Canal Street in Manchester. The canoe club had marshals out at many points to show the way, they were always a welcome sight in their yellow T shirts, offering encouragement and titbits of food. And so we continued. Neil deciding who would paddle with Anna, so that no one would get too tired. There was great camaraderie, everyone supporting each other. The night sections were hard and great concentration was needed, but there were no mishaps; and as dawn broke, everyone’s spirits lifted. We reached the final change over point, and now we knew we would succeed. Helen and Vicky paddled back to Poynton giving us a finish time of 20 hours, 39 minutes and 20 seconds. What a brilliant result, we were all elated. Of course, it is not just about the paddling. Support vehicles accompanied us all the way. Neil drove his van and transported the boats. His knowledge of the Cheshire Ring meant we were always in safe hands. We had 2 other support cars to help and without them we could not have done it! The canoe club officials were faultless. Our boats were GPS tracked for safety. Marshals at many points and the organisers kept popping up at changeovers to offer encouragement. The biggest thanks go to Neil for his dedication and support. The team were pleased that his ambition of a ladies’ relay team had finally been achieved. The ring race is held annually and it would be great to see more ladies’ teams having a go. It is certainly to be recommended. by Margaret Huyton Provisional date for 2018, 30th June. Please check the marathon race calendar. The team was 10 strong. Some had paddled the ring before, but others were fairly new recruits to canoeing. We ranged from an 18-year old who had just finished A-levels, to a 66 year old grandmother, and a mother and daughter pairing. Sadly, 2 of our team members had recently been widowed. How brave they were to have a go. Unfortunately, one of the ladies had to pull out just days before the race due to a serious injury. We were undeterred and Neil formulated a new plan - nothing was going to stop us. The race can be completed in a variety of ways from K1 or K2 all the way paddlers, to a variety of relays including the original format of 5x junior + senior pairs. Teams come from all over the UK, including The Isle of Man and competitors from mainland Europe occasionally come. It starts in Poynton on the Macclesfield canal, heads north and continues in an anti clockwise direction into and through Manchester, then westwards to Preston Brook, south east towards Kidsgrove before turning north back to Poynton. We hear from Margaret Huyton, one of the team members, who shares her account of this years Cheshire Ring Race - a female perspective.