Kimbolton School students take on gruelling Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race

In a display of determination, resilience, and athleticism, eleven students and a teacher from Kimbolton School embarked on the daunting challenge of canoeing 125 miles over the Easter weekend as part of the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race. Despite facing adverse conditions, which eventually curtailed the event at Reading, the Kimbolton canoeists (known as the Purple Paddlers) exhibited unwavering perseverance – covering an incredible 54 miles in just two days and clocking up more than 60 hours of canoeing in total.
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The Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race is a legendary event that spans four days and attracts participants from across the globe. Commencing in Devizes, in Wiltshire, the race normally culminates at the iconic Westminster Bridge, opposite the Houses of Parliament. However, this year, the event was halted at Reading for safety reasons, with the Thames tideway red flagged due to high water levels.

Throughout this year’s race, conditions were exceptionally tricky. Heavy rain meant that canals and rivers en route were flowing fast. This led some paddlers to retire early; while others canoed as far as Teddington Lock.

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Commenting, Jon Sweet, Head of Outdoor Pursuits at Kimbolton School, said: “We are immensely proud of the six teams that took part in the extraordinary Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race. This is a strenuous and demanding event in normal weather and water conditions. Faced with adverse weather it can be incredibly challenging. Despite everything they faced, our teams demonstrated resolve and strength, embodying the true spirit of Kimbolton School. Their dedication to teamwork and their ability to push through exemplifies the values we instil in our pupils. Well done to all involved for their commitment to training and for the effort invested in this challenge.”

Kimbolton School team after taking part in Devizes to WestminsterKimbolton School team after taking part in Devizes to Westminster
Kimbolton School team after taking part in Devizes to Westminster

Participating pupil, Tom S., added: “I would like to say a massive thank you to Mr Sweet, Mr Gray and the other Kimbolton staff who organised and supported our training and participation in Devizes to Westminster. Our training in the lead up to the race was extensive, but our team dynamic has been amazing and we pulled each other through the tougher moments. As a team we were disappointed that the race was shortened, but we very quickly accepted that outcome and adjusted our expectations accordingly. One of the challenges of this race is to expect the unexpected and to be adaptable! On a personal level, completing this challenge has been a fantastic journey and I do feel a great sense of achievement. Amazing friendships have been formed and we have shared some fantastic memories to last a lifetime. I can’t wait to have the opportunity to give it another go in the future.”

Kimbolton’s Purple Paddlers were:

· Rachel and Emily in Canoe 117 (10 hours and 6 mins)

· Toby and Zac in Canoe 118 (8 hours and 56 mins)

· Izzy and Tom in Canoe 119 (10 hours and 44 mins)

· Aaron and Olivia in Canoe 120 (11 hours and 28 mins)

· Tom and Theo in Canoe 121 (9 hours and 24 mins)

· Emma and Mr Gray in Canoe 605. (11 hours 36 mins)

Kimbolton School is a prestigious independent day and boarding school situated in the beautiful countryside of Cambridgeshire. Boasting state-of-the-art facilities and a castle within the grounds of its Senior School, Kimbolton School educates around 1100 boys and girls between the ages of four and 18 – helping them achieve academic success and embedding values that ensure they pursue a lifetime of meaningful contribution to society.

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