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Devizes to Westminster Canoe Marathon

As one of the oldest 'Adventure Races' in existence, and still the longest non-stop kayak race in the world, The Devizes to Westminster Canoe Marathon, familiarly known as ‘the DW’, is one of the highlights of Mount Kelly’s outdoor education programme for pupils in Lower and Upper Sixth.

The original event dates back to the postal strike of 1927 (where, like many great ideas, it began as a bet in a pub near Devizes!)  The race in its current form began in 1948 and Mount Kelly’s (as Kelly College) involvement with the race began in 1995.  In that first year one Mount Kelly crew crossed the finish line.  Since then the events popularity has grown with up to 12 Mount Kelly crews participating each year and currently 255 have earned the honour of wearing the DW medal!

Many Mount Kelly crews have distinguished themselves with very fast times, and trophies, over the years but simply to finish the event is a major achievement in its own right.  Paddling under Westminster Bridge at the end of four days of effort is an achievement which leaves the paddlers with a long-lasting sense of pride, fulfilment and confidence, which many paddlers look back on as a formative experience in their life!

Training and preparation for the event begins in September and takes place regularly through the cold and dark winter months, training character and fortitude, determination and persistence as well as developing team skills, strength and stamina, paddling technique and race tactics.

One of the unique features of the DW is the reliance of the crews on a support team, usually parents!  Over the 4 days the support team will ensure the paddlers are fed, watered, supplied with dry clothes and provided with their camping and overnight equipment at the end of each of the four days.  This unique shared experience is often described by parents as a catalyst for a change in their relationships.  To quote one parent whose daughter recently took part:

Since the event my daughter has matured. We talk. Her grades have improved. I trust her. I believe in her. This is a life changing challenge that given the chance you should take. It is a family event and will bring you closer together. Ironically it may be one of the last journeys you take alongside them. You hold their hands on this one but learn to let them go as well.