From Fleet to the Olympics

Where will the Basingstoke Canal take you?

In August 1979 two members, Dick Abbot and David Millet of the Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society contacted two local people, Charles Hicks and Ian Davey as they had an interest in canoeing. On Thursday 22nd November 1979 the first meeting of the Basingstoke Canal Canoe Club took place in Fleet. The committee was formed Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer. Family membership £3 a year.

The first official club trip was 6 miles from Pondtail Fleet on 16th December. During the summer of 1980 the club met on Tuesday evening at Fleet Wharf. There was no club house, members brought their own canoes. Later the club moved their base to The Canal Centre at Mytchett. In 2019 the club celebrated its 40th birthday.

During the day there was talk of all the adventures. Local trips to River Wey, Thames. Whitewater found at Symonds Yat, Holidays to France, kayaking along the Allier. One member recalling Canoeing The Channel. 

Club achievements: Hosting and entering the Hasler Marathon Race Finals. Members helping at The London Olympics. Canoe Club of the year. Races won and nearly won. Marathon and slalom.

Individual achievements: Many members taking part in the Devizes to Westminster race. Club members competing in International events representing Great Britain. 

Mike Simpson past chairman and senior instructor son Scott was the first member of the club to paddle for Great Britain in Down River Racing. 

When countries started to build artificial slalom courses we started to see international slalom competitions. 

Helen Reeves, who started paddling on the canal at Fleet, won Women’s Slalom K1 Bronze medal Olympic Games Athens 2004. Helen inspired Mallory Franklin a Windsor Club member who has just won silver at Tokyo 2020.

Helen has gone on to commentate for The B.B.C at the London, Rio and Tokyo Games.

Photo: Basingstoke Canal Canoe Club 40th Birthday Party 2019.

Written by Members of the BCCC

Ps and let’s not forget another local sportsperson, the Paralympian Denise Smith MBE who had strong ties with the Basingstoke Canal. Denise suffered from childhood polio and a subsequent car crash but she refused to be beaten, competed in the ice sledge at the 1984 Winter Paralympics at Innsbruck and won three silver medals in the 100, 300, and 500-metre grade I events.

This career ended after a serious water-skiing accident, but she continued her involvement in sports, supporting other athletes with disabilities. In 1992 was awarded an MBE for service to Sport for the Disabled. For 15 years until her death in 2020 she presided over the Basingstoke Canal Society’s sales stand and activities.