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Land Command and Army Slalom Canoe Championships 2008 - Ex Bold Ram by Capt Cresswell


In May 2008, an elite group of “Paddlers” from 2 MERCIAN deployed from sunny Belfast to pit their collective skill and strength against the best the Army could muster in the Land Command and Army slalom championship held in Llandysul, mid Wales. The only stumbling block to success was the fact that 98% of the team had never paddled white water before and a few had seen no action in a canoe for several years. Under the expert tuition of Capt Cresswell (who was born in a canoe), the team completed five arduous days of training before the competition began. The number of capsizes were too numerous to count but special mention must go to Cpl Fenton for the most time spent under water in one sitting. In addition, every year the team awards the “Golden Goggle” award for the person who exits the canoe the wrong way and swims the most: this year’s recipient is Pte Colley who capsized a record seven times on the first day.


The Inter Services Canoe Slalom Championships took place on the River Teifi at Llandysul, Carmarthenshire, South Wales, over the period 28 Sep - 5 Oct 08. This event is the pinnacle of any Army paddler’s career. The water conditions were excellent and the course was suited to all levels of ability, providing spectacular entertainment for all. A very wet week preceded the championship and ensured that the River Teifi was at the highest level possible making the selection race on the Friday extremely intimidating to say the least. The MERCIAN team, consisting of Capt Cresswell 2 MERCIAN, Capt Ryan 3 MERCIAN, Sgt McKnight APTC att 2 MERCIAN, Cpl Rushton 3 MERCIAN, Pte Ashley 3 MERCIAN and Pte Colley AGC att 2 MERCIAN made up almost the entire Infantry contingent. We met up on the Sunday night and looked forward to improving the results achieved at the Army Championships.


The team training was carried out throughout the week involving two gruelling training sessions each day leading up to the selection race held on the Friday prior to race day. This was run by a civilian coach, Mr Rich Hounslow, who is currently at the top of his game in Single Kayak: he is paddling at the top of the premier division of Great Britain and has recently just beaten the more famous Campbell Walsh and will hopefully be selected for the 2012 Olympics. This year there was a massive improvement in the new talent with much potential shining through which led to an exciting, exhilarating and extremely hard selection race. The water had risen yet again causing many mistakes because of the speed and difficulty of the course. Overnight rain had resulted in a greater volume of water and an increase in flow and thus higher speed for


The Mercian Eagle


the race. The higher water level did contribute to more easily identifiable lines but they were more challenging to achieve as each canoeist had to be precise on the water or he would be dragged past and beyond all hope of returning to any missed gates. Fifty second penalties where common throughout the contest showing the sheer difficulty and speed of the course. The team selection was over and only three members of the Mercian team where successful - Capt Cresswell, Capt Ryan and Pte Colley in the Kayak individual (K1) and Capt Cresswell in the Canadian Singles (C1). For the remainder of the team, the sheer power of the river Tefi in spate had proved too much and even some more experienced paddlers failed to complete the course.


Race day finally arrived and everyone was prepared and ready to go: the water level had risen again so, after a couple of changes to the course, the event began. Of the 12 paddlers selected, the top 9 would count towards the final score and the brief was simple – “beat the time of the RAF paddler in front of you and we will win”! Again, the Tefi was more than a match for some of the Army paddlers, Capt Ryan putting up a courageous attempt but he was unable to finish in the top 9 to count. Capt Cresswell fared better beating his RAF opposite number as well as some of the Army team who had beaten him in the selection event to come a respectable 6th in the Army and 13th overall. Pte Colley (AGC), although extremely concerned about the level and speed of the water, managed a respectable 5th in the Army and 12th overall. The C1 and C2 events were run in the afternoon and the water level had not slowed or dropped any, making for an interesting event which saw many capsizes and swims including the RAF C1 B team who capsized just after crossing the start line. Capt Cresswell had a good clear first run beating his RAF counterpart by some distance which, as it turned out, was just as well considering a slight mistake on the second run caused a capsize and swim. After the first day’s competition, the RAF were leading by a small margin so the competition was down to the teams on Sunday. After more heavy rain on Saturday night, the river had risen even further and the torrent of muddy water and the occasional log was relentless with next to no eddies on the course. The course was inspected by the officials from all three services and the decision was made to cancel the final event on the grounds of safety, leaving the RAF as the winners. All the MERCIAN team left on the Sunday with a feeling of achievement, having developed their paddling and racing experience on some very challenging and changing water conditions.


Capt Cresswell


Ptw Ware


Pte Colley (AGC)


Capt Ryan


Capt Cresswell


Sgt McKnight


Capt Cresswell


Cpl Rushton October 2009 49


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