Rafting in Britain has taken some great steps over the past few years. We spoke to Pas Blackwell, a key member of the GBR Men’s team heading to the WRC in New Zealand as well as a key player in driving the new growth of rafting in the region. And he also has the enviable job of being in charge of the white water course at Lee Valley White Water Centre in London!
You guys have been thinking out the box this year with your international training camps in France and at Lee Valley. Tell us more about it all.
Well we have worked hard to continue to grow the British raft race series. It is very much on the fun level of competition designed to get new faces and teams into the sport as well as give some race practice to teams which have been together for awhile and want to improve.
It is run by the ERC (English Rafting Committee) – Matt Blue, Deb Cook, Hoops and myself with the support and help of other senior team members and volunteers. The race series this year was three races but is usually 3-5 races if these can be arranged. We always try for a big end of year race, camp and party around November time but not this year due to the World Champs in NZ at that time.
Lee Valley also added to this series this year by holding both the selection race in December and also a Junior raft race as well as an international teams training camp in February. This race was small but successful as we now have an U23 and U19 team aiming to make it to the world championships for the first time this year. The ERC are hoping to get 5 teams to the World Championships this year and this is mainly due to the race series and with supporting events such as the coaching and training sessions offered at Lee Valley. These are run on a Thursday night to make sure the new teams are up to the standard required for international competition and sufficiently safe to take on the challenges of the natural environment.
Also on this years calendar was a great new training camp run by Matt Blue out in the French Alps. The idea of the training camp was for more established teams such as the Men’s Masters team, amongst others, to go on a week long training camp to practice their guiding, river running, racing and knowledge of all aspects of the sport. Again safety was at the heart of the week to make sure teams coming from GB are safe out on the water and feel confident to look after themselves and help others out on the river. This camp was run with the GB ladies team coaching other teams and getting an amount of the expenses covered to provide a useful training camp for them as well as the developing teams.
We have recently placed a successful bid with the BCU for a substantial amount of money to develop rafting in Britain. The plan for formulating this is still being finalised but we hope to improve our ability to take rafting to a number of different venues and people so that numbers continue to increase and the rafting opportunities on offer in Britain can start to compete with other sports.
Well done to the English Rafting Committee and we look forward to seeing their new teams competing in NZ.