50th Anniversary Amsterdam Waterlands Marathon Trip

50th Anniversary Amsterdam Waterlands Marathon Trip

After a long absence since a team last attended the Amsterdam Waterlands Marathon, the 50th Anniversary edition of the race, over the weekend of 18th-20th April 2024, was an ideal opportunity to return to this exciting but challenging race. However, the adverse weather, with driving strong winds, rain, hailstorms and freezing temperatures would add significantly to the challenge. The organisation conceded it was the worst weather they had faced in a decade.

To take up the challenge, a team of five Under 23 and seven Under 18 athletes attended, all racing in the Senior Men’s and Women’s 24km long distance races, taking on the two portages including the second unique portage requiring landing on the wetlands bank.

The team left on the overnight ferry on Thursday, arriving in time for a full Friday, recceing the course and practising the main portage. The venue was new to all the athletes and though they had heard many stories in advance of arrival, they remained with trepidations but excitement about what they faced.

The team found strong head and side winds would be challenging on the wide start and wide lake beyond the 1st straight forward lock portage. Practise landing the second portage was accompanied by pounding rain and swirling winds. The run across the adjoining field onto the very narrow last race section was like crossing a bog. That said everyone landed very successfully, claiming it was much better than they anticipated and couldn’t wait to take it on in the race.

Race day arrived with great enthusiasm from the team. The overnight wind didn’t let up, but thankfully we still had stored boats to return to on Saturday morning, at a very busy Viking Club, with over 175 paddlers due to participate and others hoping to take a place from the waiting list.

Given the relative youth of the team, facing stiff international competition, we had some excellent results. Podium places were taken in both the Junior ladies and Junior men’s race. Kamila Sklenarova (Norwich Canoe Club) took an excellent 2nd place, while Alex Worgan (Richmond Canoe Club) finished strongly in 3rd place respectively. We also secured 4th place in three of the race categories; Greta Roeser (Wey Kayak Club), Frankie Scrivener (Falcon Canoe Club) and Lochie Lovell (Worcester Canoe Club).  

The ladies were first to start in the wind, after an unsettling 2nd call back. In a very strong field, Greta finished in an excellent 4th  in the Senior Ladies, after clean successful portages kept her at front end of the race throughout, only losing out on a podium place in a final sprint.  She was followed by Jessie Urquhart (Nottingham Kayak Club) crossing the line in very good 12th place, paddle clashes early on were overcome, and a great chase back on the narrows helped her pick up places. Elise Montagna (Royal Canoe Club) was knocked in after a paddle clash in first 2km but made an efficient self-rescue and said she enjoyed the catch back up to the chasing groups.  Her 16th position finish in a field of 25 finishes was commendable after a swim. Becky Pemble (Addlestone Canoe Club) was in the mix throughout the race having clean portages both times, however she unfortunately lost her rudder at around 16/17k in the remote narrow race sections, forcing her to withdraw.

In the Junior ladies Kamila had a good start, quickly picking up the leading lady and staying well within the senior ladies field. Some time was lost at the 1st portage after taking on water but a clean second half of the race kept her within close sight of the leader to take the 2nd place. Despite the chaos and bumpiness of the start Frankie was cleanly away, surrounded by master’s men, she was bounced off many washes, spending a good proportion of her race on her own, yet still battled the wind to secure a great 4th place.

The Senior and Junior Men’s start was always going to be pressurised given the high calibre field. Finally starting after the 3rd time of asking, a few of the men had found themselves in unplanned starting locations, yet all made safe starts, impressive when surrounded by over 80 boats. The speed of the senior field was reflected in the junior race and times achieved. Alex, despite a slow start found he was able to pick up washes positioning himself well for the finish to secure a fine 3rd place. Lochie Lovell stayed within sight of the podium places after an excellent 1st portage, large groups jostling for position were overcome to take another 4th place.  Trisham Bhoola (Richmond Canoe Club) followed in finishing 7th, he had a fast first race half, found heavy waves made the middle race sections slower yet was still happy at the end. Tyler Kinder (Reading Canoe Club) finished 12th, as one of the youngest team members, he quietly and determinedly got on with his race. 15thplace was taken by Toby Bullock (Exeter Canoe Club). He found the race fun despite the conditions slowly progressing forward after the busy start. Zac Benstead (Elmbridge Canoe Club) faced quite a challenge in the Senior race given the front end race pace, finally finishing in 38th place. He made a very good start unexpectedly finding himself close to the leading men, his portages were very clean and efficient, even when a huge hailstorm engulfed the 2nd portage as his group arrived. Finishing as most very satisfied with the races and looking forward to repeating the experience one day soon.

As the team headed back to the ferry and home, everyone agreed, despite varied experiences, that it was an excellent trip. Reflecting back they also agreed with Greta’s summary that in one marathon race it provided a development team with everything they could need experience wise, high level competition, channelling portages, varying water and racing skills.

With thanks to all the athletes and particularly the staff team for their help and support.

Colette Johnson

Team Leader

The Marathon Racing Committee would also like to draw attention to the awesome results achieved by British paddlers who were racing independently at the Waterlands Marathon this year. In particular, we would like to celebrate the podium results achieved. James Russell (Chelmsford Canoe Club) took an incredible first place in a stacked Senior Mens field, Joe Enoch (Nottingham Kayak Club) took second in the Junior Boys race, despite a swim, and Matt Enoch (Nottingham Kayak Club) took second in the Veteran Mens race. Well done to all. Full results from the event can be found here.