Founded in 1952, OUCKC is one of the oldest university paddlesport clubs in the country. This year the Oxford University Canoe and Kayak Club has gone from strength to strength, seeing an increase in the number of new members attending Sunday training sessions and trips and becoming members of the club. The year kicked off in early Michaelmas with the BCU Student Safety Seminar at Plas y Brenin in North Wales; a weekend of essential training about transport, club health and safety, training schemes and trips abroad, as well as skills coaching on whitewater.
Matthew Coulson, Chris Booth and Thomas Leissing then competed in the BUCS Whitewater Race on the Washburn in Yorkshire, coming 4th with a time of 9.30.6 minutes (the winning time was 8.44.7 minutes). This counted as one of the four varsity competitions against Cambridge (whitewater, freestyle, marathon, canoe polo). The freshers enjoyed a trip to the River Usk in South Wales, a Grade 2/3 river, with those who had just learnt to paddle running three sizeable drops successfully under the coaching and leadership of more experienced club members and alumni.
In Hilary, a trip to the River Dart in Devon saw freshers and new members paddling the Upper, the Loop, Lower Dart and the Tawe: ranging from Grade 2 to Grade 4 white water. A group of 15 members attended the National Student Rodeo freestyle competition at the Nottingham HPP White Water Course at the end of 7th Week, with Ben Coulton gaining second place in the men’s expert category, and Chris Booth gaining third place in the men’s intermediate category. The women’s canoe polo team also enjoyed competing in the Division 2 National League Ladies Canoe Polo Tournament held in Stratford-Upon- Avon.
In Trinity, OUCKC attended the BUCS Canoe Polo Competition at Hatfield Water Park at the end of 0th Week. They ranked 27th overall, achieving one win and losing four games. Trips were also led on the Tryweryn in North Wales, and at the International White Water Centre in Cardiff. The varsity match was held in Oxford this year at the end of 2nd Week, with more women than men competing from Oxford. On the Saturday, the women’s Canoe Polo team beat Cambridge 4-0, with the help of GB Polo Player Sophie Louth, while the men lost 6-5. Oxford women gained the top three places in marathon, and the men came in first, second, and fourth places, scoring 26 points, beating Cambridge’s 19. On the Sunday the freestyle competition was held, as well as the women’s white water race, which was won (just) by Cambridge. Oxford women won the freestyle, again taking the top three places, and Oxford men came first, fourth, and sixth, scoring 22 points, just losing to Cambridge’s 23.
Canoe Polo Cuppers was held at Port Meadow at the end of 4th Week, and was won by St Anne’s, taking the trophy away from last year’s victors Merton. Six different teams, many of whose members had never kayaked before, fought hard to score goals and all provided veritable competition for one another.
This year, five club members gained awards. Chris Booth, Matthew Coulson, Hannah Theaker, and Helen Tatlow were awarded Half Blues for competing in at least three out of four of the disciplines in the varsity match, and Sophie Louth was awarded a Discretionary Full Blue for her achievements representing GB in Canoe Polo.
As well as competitions this year, weekly Sunday sessions are held for whitewater skills development and canoe polo training at Port Meadow, marathon training every Friday morning, rolling clinics at Iffley pool, and intermediate development sessions were held on Wednesdays in Trinity. The club is currently fundraising for a new shed on the Port Meadow site, under the leadership and organization of the President Anja Mizdrak. This shed will store the boats and kit, and will be shared with the Keble College Boat Club. A number of fund-raisers, including a quiz at St Anne’s, a raffle, and cake sales at Trinity ‘Come and Try it’ open day for all members of the university have been a few ways in which money has been raised. Individual sessions for JCRs and MCRs supporting the fund-raising have also been held at Port Meadow, with coaching provided for beginners.
OUCKC will finish the year with a summer dinner at The Varsity Club, and the annual trip to Pembrokeshire in order to go surf kayaking.