Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Devizes to Westminster race, out of the IFC World Series for 2013

A few days ago, talking about the results of the 2012 World Series Marathon, we made a first approach to what, from our point of view, it's maybe not the best organization by the ICF. Introduced in the 2010 season, the world series formed by 10 long distance classic races is not taking off among the international elite.
Then, some days ago, the ICF wrote to the Royal Canoe Club of London's about their decision of not to include by fourth consecutive year the Devizes to Westminster race in the series. According to the letter, signed by Tim Cornish, a permanent member of the ICF Marathon, the race is "too hard", which makes few international paddlers be attracted by it.
The Royal Canoe Club, organizer of the event and world's oldest
canoeing club, has communicated its strong disagreement with the decision, despite being willing to pay the fee of 600 euros payable to the ICF. This was one of the points that we discussed in the previous article and, frankly, does not seem excessive royalties and an not a big amount to attract international paddlers if that money was used to finance their trips, as proposed. Still, the fact that the Royal Canoe Club had no trouble to pay the fee indicates that the decision does respond properly to a change of course (or at least a "rethought") to these international series.
But are they taking steps in the right direction? Certainly it won't be me the one who puts into question the reasons of a committee with so experienced members as Jørn Cronberg, Alan Laws, Ruud Hejselaar or Tim Cornish himself (winner in his youth of many of these important races) . But it is also true that many decisions have been controversial over the years. This time, the fact of rejecting a race for being too hard (200 km. in 4 stages for the K1s) can be seen in two ways:

1) Indeed, a race of this exigence may not make hordes of paddlers come to England in April. Tim Cornish himself (winner in 1979) acknowledges in his letter that the series are not taking off as they expected and want to try "softer" events. It can be a good solution if you are looking for massive concurrency. A good example is the Descent of the Sella. Just 20 kilometers in a river without further complications than overcrowding, good party atmosphere and during a time of the year when many of the foreign participants enjoy their work holidays. But the average paddler going to the Sella, to how many other races will he be able to go around the world?
2) The Royal Canoe Club also complains the ICF label of too hard for international elite paddlers a career when the DW race is disputed even by schoolboys. And not without reason, as concurrence is not short in one of the great British classics. What this decision makes clear is that races like the Rio Negro, which was included in previous editions, or the South African Berg or Dusi Unlimited, have a very difficult return to the series. And that the next victims will be, without any kind of doubt, the Danish Tour de Gudeena and Australian Avon Descent, races above 100 km. in one day. Shall go racing more affordable, but fear of trying to go for something like what it has become the official marathon championships is around, looking for races with a course of several laps to the delight of the spectators (laudable goal, certainly, don't get me wrong), but in which the configuration of turns and portages sometimes become more decisive than the course itself, also removing much of the beauty of having races that start in one place and end in another.
Knowing that a race is involved or not in the World Series can play a big role in attracting paddlers and sponsors, may all decisions made hereafter are for the common benefit and for the good of canoeing and all who love the marathon. All these issues may be revised again and again in the future, and new approaches will emerge, but the question we launch from here is: if I were an international elite paddler, which race titles would I like to have in my bag? ... I've got a clear answer for that.

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