On Sunday 8th May, 203 paddlers, along with 175 of their boats, met at the Mytchett Canal Centre to participate in the Hasler racing series hosted by Basingstoke Canal Canoe Club.
The Hasler series is a nationwide interclub competition split across multiple regions. The Basingstoke Canal is situated in the Southern Region, which is made up of 9 other canoe clubs ranging from Southampton to Banbury.
The race is split into 9 Divisions, with 1 being the best, plus 4 additional divisions for under-14s.
Division 7/8/9 complete a 7km circuit from the Canal Centre to Ash Wharf and back. Divisions 1-6 complete a 14km circuit with portages requiring the paddlers to egress, run along with their boat and access the water again further down the path. This portaging is quite the spectator sport. The under 14 races have a 3km circuit have to Ash Vale train station and back.
The largest division for the race was division 9, which is the entry division for new paddlers, this consisted of 27 paddlers. As you may well be aware, the width for the canal does not allow for a single start line which is 27 paddlers wide, therefore the larger groups were split into odds and evens for separate start times. However this is still a struggle for most paddlers as the start line is only suitable for around 12 paddlers, therefore the unlucky few that are not confident enough to barge their way to the start line will find themselves in a second row.
The water directly behind the first row of the start line can best be described as conditions similar to the effects of Beaufort force 6 and this often catches unwary paddlers by surprise resulting in an early dip in the canal.
In total 19 races were run on the day with very few issues. The majority of the paddlers (those not fighting for podium positions) were able to enjoy the beauty of the Basingstoke Canal and will be returning in May 2023 to further improve their regional position.