|By Andy Wilson|
Pretty much all my paddling has been done either in, or in preparation for, adventure races. I don't own a kayak and don't practice on a regular basis outside of races. Probably as a result kayak stages are almost always a chore in unresponsive, stubborn sit-on-tops. I say "almost" because who could forget whitewater in Sevvys in the 2006 Open 24. Races are meant to be fun aren't they? Challenging, competitive but ultimately enjoyable or else we wouldn't chose to do them.
Having paddled sit-tops in various races, and also paddled some "proper" kayaks at others, the news that Necky Amaruks would be an option at this year's Open 24 sounded very positive to me and I was very keen to use one if at all possible. The benefits which immediately sprang to mind being speed and comfort, and having had a good result last year we wanted to give ourselves the best opportunity this time.
The downside being actually having to get the required award, how much it was going to cost, and was there any value other than simply be allowed to paddle a faster boat in the Open 24. Perhaps there is a bigger picture here, but more of that later.
So, what exactly is the Open 24 requirement? Competitors will be allowed to use their own boats, where approved, or hire Necky Amaruks from the organiser if one of the pair has either a new UKCC 2* or older British Canoe Union (BCU) 3* qualification. No qualification and racers will have to use sit-on-tops as in previous races. (The old BCU 3* award is no longer available. The new award is still governed by the BCU and meets the standards of the UK Coaching Certificate scheme. Hence, new the name.)
And what's required in the new UKCC 2 Star award? A quick look at the syllabus indicates that it is an "improvers" award, for paddlers who already have experience of two different craft, in a couple of different locations and who have either taken part in 2 local competitions or undertaken 2 journeys of 2 hours or more. Which will cover most adventure racers who have ever paddled Sevvys and sit-on-tops I expect.
The award looks to develop personal paddling skills both to make forward paddling more efficient and also to increase close control through various paddle strokes, and is conducted both in kayaks and canoes.
Open Adventure have arranged, in conjunction with Windermere Canoe & Kayak, several weekend training and assessment courses for the UKCC 2* qualification, targeted at Open 24 racers. The WCK course I thought was remarkable value at £95 especially when compared to other options – the other ones I could find were well over £250 for training and assessment.