Contingency Planning

04 April 2019

The organisers of the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race have reviewed and updated the contingency planning for the 2019 race.

The essential features of the plan are described below.

Guiding Principles

Even in ideal conditions completing DW is a significant challenge, both physically and mentally.  It cannot be undertaken lightly and generally requires significant sustained training for several months before the race. 

Competitors should spare no effort in training for the conditions likely to be encountered.  This would include portaging, honing their ability to read and paddle on a flowing river, familiarising themselves with the course and a gaining a detailed understanding of the navigation rules and marks on the tidal section. 

The DW Organisation can only assess the level of hazard presented by the course and the conditions.  There are intrinsic hazards with DW and these cannot be mitigated to zero.  Therefore, responsibility lies with each paddler to review the information presented and determine if they should or should not take part. 

Race State

DW will publish a Race State one week before the race. 

The Race State will be determined by the following DW personnel: Safety Officer, Course Coordinator, Chief Umpire and Stages Umpire. 

DW staff will also discuss course conditions with the Canal and Rivers Trust, the Environment Agency and the Port of London Authority. 

The assessment of Race State looks at the predicted water levels and flow rates, the weather conditions (temperatures, wind speed and direction, precipitation, fog/mist) plus any other exceptional factors.

The Race State will be published on the DW website ( and directly communicated to all paddlers, Chief Supporters and Junior Team Leaders. 

It will also be published via social media on the Official DW Twitter account ( and on the Official DW Facebook Page ( 

Any changes to the Race State will also passed on promptly via the website, social media and via mass-SMS to registered Chief Supporters and Team Leaders.   


The Race States are as follows:

  Description  Likely impact on the race
Green Normal conditions, little flow, no adverse weather expected None


Higher flow than normal, no adverse weather

Normal flow and moderate adverse weather


Competitors and supporters to be advised and to take appropriate care.

Crew self-assessment matrix.

Additional signage and marshals at key locations as required.


Medium flow & no adverse weather

Some flow & adverse weather


Competitors and supporters to be advised accordingly and to take appropriate precautions.

Crew self-assessment matrix with medium threshold score.


Additional portages and or longer portages.

In-race Crew monitoring and checks.


Medium flow & adverse weather

Strongly adverse weather


Race may be amended for Senior Doubles to paddle the Thames in daylight.

Restrictions on stages race likely.

Crew self-assessment matrix with high threshold score.

Additional, longer and changed portages. Additional in-race Crew monitoring.



 High flow



In-progress Race curtailed.

Pre-Race - Only a handful of crews deemed suitably competent and experienced will be able to compete.  River Thames in daylight.

Stages race likely to be cancelled or suspended.



Exceptional flow

Extreme adverse weather – high winds, deep snow, presenting severe hazard to paddler, support crew and DW team safety


Race suspended for all competitors.



Examples from recent years

2013 would have been a Red Race State.  Although flow on the river was better than in recent years, it was still within the normal range for the time of year. The forecast (and actual) weather, however, was for sub-zero temperatures at night. Declaring a Red Race State would have alerted competitors to the greater challenge and the need to be fully prepared with additional kit and warm clothing.

The conditions experienced during Waterside C in 2019 would have led to a Yellow Race State.  The sunshine and temperatures were such that dehydration and sunburn were both possible and experienced.  At Easter, such weather would most likely see increased waterway traffic and large numbers of the public at portages, thus increasing collision factors.


As stated in the Guiding Principles, the publication of the Race State is to advise and inform competitors and support crews of the level of hazard presented.  It is then for all competitors and supporters to assess if they are suitably competent, experienced and equipped to participate.  To this end, for all Race States above Green crews will need to self-assess against the paddler competency matrix.  The recommended score will be published and will vary depending on the assessment of the conditions.

Further information

Competitors and their support crews are urged to read the Plan in detail and understand the implications. Any questions should be addressed to the Chief Umpire ( or to the Race Directors.