The course starts at Devizes Wharf, passing along the Kennet & Avon Canal before joining the River Thames at Reading. Immediately after the canal joins the river there is a compulsory portage at Dreadnought Reach (Wokingham Waterside Centre). The course continues downstream to Teddington, reaching the finish 50 metres below Westminster Bridge via the tidal section of the Thames. It is 125 miles long and there are 77 portages.
Only the navigation channels of the Kennet & Avon Canal and River Thames may be used. The backwater cut at Windsor passing under the dual carriageway is not regarded as a navigation channel for the purposes of these rules.
All portages must take place on the tow path, except where otherwise shown on the official Route Plan, Portage Diagram or as ordered by an official.
No other route is permitted. All relevant bylaws from the Canal & River Trust, Environment Agency and Port of London Authority (PLA) must be adhered to. On the tideway, PLA bylaws require boats to keep to the correct side of the river, so do not cut corners or paddle against the left-hand bank.
Canoes and kayaks are referred to in these Rules as “boats” and must be manned by a crew of one or two persons, depending on the class in which they are entered. Propulsion is by single or double bladed paddle only. In order to qualify for the Canadian Trophy only open canoes propelled by single bladed paddles are permitted, while rudders are not.
No other form of craft are permitted within the scope of these rules, including rafts, inflatables, paddleboards, surf skis or other sit-on or stand-on boards.
All Entry Forms, Fees and Team Entries, must be received in accordance with the deadlines published on the Entry Form page of the DW Website. Entries must be submitted using the online system. No late entries will be accepted. The Organisation reserves the right to refuse any entry.
All competitors aged 18 or over must sign the Indemnity Declaration when checking in. For competitors aged under 18, a Parent or Guardian must sign on their behalf.
For the purpose of these rules, a “crew” is defined as both paddler(s) and the lead member of the support crew, known as the Chief Supporter. In addition to paddlers, Penalties can be awarded against the Chief Supporter and/or other associated Support Crew, which will apply to the boat.
Any changes to crew information must be notified at Registration and Check-In at Devizes, before the boat starts the race. Team Entries must be completed online, no later than midnight of the Wednesday preceding the race. This must be done using the online form or PDF linked in Section 3 of the How to Enter page of the DW Website.
Eligibility: Please see note 4 - this race has restrictions on entries.
On the Thursday
● Schools registration and briefing (by appointment)
On Good Friday
● 0600: Registration and parking opens
● 0700 - 0800: Start window for Endeavour crews
● 0800 – 0930: Start window for Junior Crews
● 0930 – 1030: Start window for Senior Singles and Veteran/Junior Doubles
● 1300 Finish window opens at Northcroft
N.B. Boats (in any class) expecting to take between 7 and 9.5 hours to reach Newbury must start earlier by arrangement with the Official Starter
On Easter Saturday at Devizes
● 0600: Registration and parking opens
● 0700 – 12.00 – Start Window for Senior Doubles
● 1200: Starts after this time only by appointment with the Chief Umpire
A number will be issued to each crew and this must be secured to the boat as directed. Crew members and support crew must wear the identification issued and not remove them until their race is finished.
At event registration you will be required to sign the declaration form regarding mandatory kit.
Each individual and team is responsible for being properly equipped to take part in the race, and is ultimately responsible for their own and safe conduct in accordance with the prevailing weather conditions.
The mandatory kit is a minimum requirement only. Emergency kit, if used, must be replaced as soon as possible, at the latest before or at the next checkpoint. Checkpoints are located at strategic intervals along the course. Crews may not continue past them without replacing missing kit. Umpires will penalise any failure to do so.
Each Competitor shall carry the following items about their person or secured in the craft, as follows:
Paddlers must provide the following:
● Buoyancy Aid – see Note (1). 1 per paddler, worn at all times.
● Long sleeve thermal top or long sleeve wind stopper top. 1 per paddler in drybag. Emergency use only, and if used, support to replace at next checkpoint.
● A working mobile phone 1 per crew. (we recommend a waterproof case)
● Drinking fluid (300ml) per paddler. Emergency use only, in addition to your drinks system. If used, support must replace at next checkpoint.
DW will provide each paddler with the following items:
● White light stick - See Note (2)
● Thermal Foil Blanket
● Energy Gel
● Head covering capable of covering ears.
This kit is for use in an emergency, therefore must be accessible at any time. Crews will need to provide a suitable method for packing and securing the above items appropriately for use. (EG a waterproof bag)
Crews will be spot checked during the race. Failure to have the mandatory kit will result in disqualification.
In or on the craft
● Kayaks only must carry spray decks at all times. Below Teddington Lock all kayak crews must use spray decks to cover the cockpits. This excludes Stages competitors finishing at Thames Young Mariners just downstream of Teddington Lock on Day 3. Canoes must have means to bail water out of the boat mid-stream
● Lighting see Note (2)
● Boat buoyancy – see Note (3)
1. The Golden Rule: Above all else, all competitors and support crews should consider the safety and well being of all persons involved in the race.
2. Completing the race/retiring: Once a crew has registered they must report to Westminster or race control in person or verbally by 1200 hours on Easter Monday, whether they have completed the race or not. The GPS tracking unit must be returned. Please note if the GPS unit is not returned before leaving the course, the resulting costs will be transferred to the competitor.
3. The Course: All competitors must follow the course as directed. (125 miles, 77 portages) Any and all navigation rules set by DW Organisation, Canal and Rivers Trust, Environment Agency and Port of London Authority must be followed at all times. Transport over land or by water for the purpose of shortening the course is forbidden. If a crew cannot paddle the course they may walk it, carrying their boat, paddles and full kit. No short cut or transport is allowed.
4. Competitors and/or support crew are not permitted to:
• Shoot weirs.
• Take pace or wash-hang from any vessel not in the race.
• Replace or substitute their boat.
• Remove numbers from boats during the race.
• Remove any identification material issued by the organisers.
• Overtake in the Bruce Tunnel (Savernake Forest).
• Relieve themselves in public, or otherwise or put the race in jeopardy due to inappropriate behaviour.
• Use trolleys or portage devices unless they have carried them, at all times, from the Start.
5. Age Categories: Competitors must follow strict age categories for each class:
• Junior doubles not less than 15 and less than 19 on the 1st January in the year of the race.
• Junior/Veteran. Veterans over 35 on the 1st January in the year of the race. Juniors not less than 15 and less than 19 on the 1st January in the year of the race.
• Senior singles: 18 or over on the 1st January in the year of the race.
• Senior doubles: 18 or over on the 1st January in the year of the race.
• Endeavour: Either both paddlers 19 or over on the 1st January in the year of the race, or 1 paddler over 19 and one Junior not less than 15 and less than 19 on the 1st January in the year of the race.
6. No substitutions may be made to a crew.
7. Relevant Experience: Each participant must have experience of paddling and navigation of the water represented in the race. Competitors must be able to swim 100 metres in canoeing dress. Appropriate experience must be listed in the registration form. See Note (4)
8. Chief Supporter: Must be available for communication as required by race control throughout the period of the race, on the mobile phone number provided at registration.
9. Checkpoints: All boats must have cleared the timing checkpoints within the set times as directed in note 5.
10. Out of bounds: and compulsory portages are marked on the map and must be observed accordingly. A 250 metre restriction must be obeyed by support crew on closed portages.
11. No Dogs: No dogs are permitted within the portage areas, or at the stages race start/finish sites.
12. Mobile phones and GPS: Each crew must have a working mobile phone and the issued GPS tracker on their person at all times. The GPS Tracker must not be tampered with at any time and must be returned at Westminster or to a DW umpire, marshal or other official as soon as possible following retirement. Race control will be able to assist in locating the nearest point if necessary.
13. Boat and kit inspection: Participants must, on request of an official, allow their equipment to be inspected, even after the finish line. Non-presentation will result in the boat not being able to progress or disqualification.
14. Competitor Conduct: Any participants who place themselves or others in danger, refuse to follow instructions from an official or are disrespectful to other competitors, support crew or officials may be disqualified from the current competition and/or excluded from future editions of the race. Interpretation of this rule is at the discretion of race management.
15. Start and Finish windows: The start and finish windows of the race for all days are published on the website and must be followed. Crews that do not comply with these times may be disqualified. At Teddington ANY senior doubles crews not making the first published tide window will be held until the following published window. Competitors must meet time criteria. (see note 5)
16. Rubbish: All rubbish must be carried or passed to support crews for the duration of the race. Support crews must not litter at any point. Disregarding this rule may result in disqualification
17. Racing boats: all craft must be fit for purpose as deemed by the Chief Umpire at registration and repaired to a suitable standard should an incident occur.
• Crews may receive replacement paddles, boat fittings, clothing, spraydecks and emergency rations if used, lost or damaged.
• Help with the repair of the boat is permitted provided it is not moved away from or along the course.
18. Wash Hanging: Crews must not seek to obtain an unfair advantage from another competitor outside of their race classification, or any vessel not in the race.
19. Drugs: The taking of drugs as defined in International Canoe Federation (ICF) Rules is forbidden and all competitors are liable to a drug test. Refusal to submit to such a test shall incur automatic disqualification.
20. Briefings: Support crews are advised to attend the briefing at Devizes. Included at the briefing will be a reminder of key points for support crews and parking restrictions, as well as an any updates to course information. Failure to follow this information will result in crews being penalised.
21. Support crew conduct: Supporters must behave responsibly and considerately at all times and shall observe restrictions along the course and adjoining areas as may be imposed by the organisers. The support crew are subject to rules published in the support crew code of conduct.
22. Support crew identification: At Devizes, every support crew will be issued with 2 windscreen stickers identifying their crew number. These must be affixed to your windscreen for the duration of the race. For the Stages Race, each support will be issued with Armbands (4 issued to Doubles crews and 2 Armbands issued to Singles crews).
Only 2 supporters wearing armbands are allowed to service their crew at any portage. Only supporters wearing armbands may be present at the Start /End of Stage Campsite area.
Non arm banded supporters will be directed away from servicing any crews. Prolonged infringement will result in the crew being penalised.
23. Prizes: It is against the spirit of the race to attempt to subvert or manipulate entry details in any way to compete for trophies. Trophies are awarded for bona fide entries only.
24. Instruction by Officials: If a crew is directed on or off the water for any reason, they must follow the instruction immediately. Failure to do so, or wilful disregard of instructions by any race official, will result in a possible lifetime ban from entry for future editions of DW.
Rules for navigating the Tideway
The tidal Thames is a very busy and potentially hazardous stretch of water. The following rules apply, and any breach of them may lead to a major time penalty or even disqualification:
Obey the instructions of PLA, Harbourmaster, Police and DW rescue craft.
Keep to the right hand side of the centreline of the river AT ALL TIMES
If passing through the central arch of a bridge, keep to the right hand side of that arch.
Never use a bridge arch displaying three orange lights or three coloured discs.
Keep out of the way of rowers.
● Rowers are a particular hazard. On the upper part of the tidal Thames between Putney and Syon (Kew) they are allowed to 'work the slacks' and row on the inside of the bends - what may appear to canoeists to be the 'wrong' side of the river when rowing against the stream.
● Competitors must paddle sufficiently far away from the right hand side of the bank to allow a rowing eight to pass safely between themselves and the bank.
● Rowers have designated points at which to cross the river in this area and do not have a right of way when they cross. Canoeists should still beware of approaching rowers and assume they cannot be seen. If there is danger of collision, shout "Ahead Rowing Boat" very loudly and change direction.
At Lambeth Bridge, less than a mile before the finish, competitors may only use the right hand arch and must then stay inside the line of moored boats as they approach Westminster. Normally a DW safety boat will be there to alert competitors.
The PLA monitor the tideway via cameras mounted on each bridge. They will report navigation infractions, particularly crossing the centreline, to the DW Organisation, and have the power to request that crews who disregard the navigation rules and bylaws are penalised or disqualified.
More information can be found on the PLA website:
Note 1. Buoyancy Aids
Competitors must wear an Integral Foam Buoyancy aid or lifejacket conforming to one of the following European standards: EN 393 or EN 395 or ISO12402-5 or ISO12402-6. The standard must be clearly displayed via a label attached by the manufacturer.
Buoyancy aids or lifejackets are not acceptable under any circumstance if:-
● They only display certification to BA83.
● Require partial or total inflation by mouth, or by the use of a compressed air/gas cylinder.
● Appear to be more than five years old, or have been subjected to heavy use, thus degrading their flotation value.
● Have been tampered with or modified in any way.
Buoyancy aids made outside the EU (and not carrying the relevant EN or ISO standard mark) will not be accepted unless they are:
(a) Individually certified by the manufacturer as meeting EU requirements, or:
(b) Presented by a paddler who can prove that he/she is not resident in the EU. By definition this will exclude anyone competing for a canoe club or organisation from within the EU.
Note 2. Lighting
Senior Doubles Crews
All boats paddling anywhere on the course between the hours of sunset and sunrise:
• Must display without fail a white light at both bow and stern, both visible through 180 degrees. No other colours are permitted. Care should be taken that rear facing lights do not dazzle other paddlers and a diffused light should be used.
• Paddlers must attach an activated white light stick to the left shoulder of their buoyancy aid. No other colours are permitted.
• Head torches or LED sticks are not acceptable as the primary light source.
• Below Teddington each boat must carry a torch ready for instant showing in any direction.
• Failure to follow the lighting rules will result in the boat being removed from the water, and will not be allowed to continue until either the correct lights are fitted, or sunrise.
Stages Race Crews
ALL Stages Race crews on the Easter Monday morning start at Thames Young Mariners require the following:
- White light stick per paddler; activated and attached to the buoyancy aid, front left shoulder (light stick included in Emergency Kit provided by DW)
- Torch ready to be shown in any direction on the Tideway to attract attention (provided by crew)
Note 3. Boat Buoyancy
Boats must contain sufficient buoyancy to support their crews in the event of capsize. Sandwich construction boats are not presumed to have sufficient inherent buoyancy and must carry additional foam or other non-porous buoyant material. Closed and water-tight compartments built in by the original manufacturer may be accepted at the Chief Umpire’s discretion but must have adequate buoyancy at both ends. The expected volume of buoyancy is approximately 20 litres for a K2 and 12 litres for a K1. This should be distributed in both bow and stern. As a guide, a block of foam 50 mm x 300 mm x 670 mm is 10 litres. For Canadian doubles a centre air bag or foam of sufficient volume can be used. If there are concerns at scrutineering, the decision of the Chief Umpire will apply.
Note 4. Eligibility to enter the race
Competing in the following classes: Senior Doubles, Senior Singles, Veteran, Endeavour
Will be required to confirm one of the following:
● Has completed DW within the past 5 years, or:
● Is currently ranked in Marathon Divisions 1 - 5, or:
● Is currently ranked in Marathon Divisions 6 - 9 AND have completed a marathon race greater than 20 miles.
● Other Paddlers (including international Paddlers visiting the UK to compete in DW): Please provide endorsement by a qualified club coach that you are competent to compete in the race, or GPS proof that you have paddled in excess of 30 miles on similar water to DW (canal and open moving water), within 8 ½ hours .
Competing in the following classes: Junior Doubles, Endeavour
Will require the endorsement of a qualified Club Coach/Team Leader that the Junior paddler:
● Is able to paddle 38 miles in 9 ½ hours, OR:
● Has paddled a minimum of 25 miles (continuous) or raced on similar water to DW (canal and open moving water) in last 3 months, OR
● Provide details of Team Leader/Club Coach who can validate your ability to enter the race.
Statements of paddler ability will be reviewed by the DW Organisation. Competitors may be required to provide further proof or validation at the request of the Race Organisation, prior to entry being confirmed.
Note 5. Set time checkpoints
All boats must pass the checkpoint below within set times. Failure to make these times will result in immediate cessation of the crews race, and will have their number removed from the boat by an official. Any boat that refuses to stop and continues to paddle will face a lifetime ban from entering future editions of DW.
Devizes to Newbury within 9 hours 30 minutes
Newbury to Marlow within 9 hours 30 minutes
Marlow to Teddington within 9 hours 30 minutes
Devizes to Newbury Checkpoint within 10 hours
Devizes to Dreadnought Reach within 16 hours 15 minutes
Devizes to Marlow within 21 hours 30 minutes
Devizes to Old Windsor witin 26 hours 30 minutes
Devizes to Shepperton within 29 hours 30 minutes
Crews arriving for the first tide on the Sunday morning may only pass through Teddington during a 4 hour window starting 30 minutes before high water and ending 3 hours and 30 minutes after high water. The tide window at Teddington for the Sunday evening tide will be 2 hours long. It will open 30 minutes before high water and close 1 hour and 30 minutes after high water
Crews arriving before or after these times will be required to WAIT for the next tide window and no time allowance will be given. There will be no exceptions to this rule. THERE IS NO OPTION TO CONTINUE ON FOOT ALONG THE TOWPATH.
Note 6. Official Portage diagrams
Please click here to download a printable PDF of the official portage routes
Note 7. Support Crew Identification
Support Crew armbands must remain visible at all times during the race. You are responsible for returning these to Westminster Finish on Easter Monday. There will be a charge per lost set.
The Chief Supporter of each crew must confirm/provide the Competition Secretary with their name and mobile phone number as required on the Entry Form. They should also supply a landline number of a supporter who can relay messages should mobile communication fail. Support crews must be readily available at all times to be contacted by DW Control. If you cannot be contacted immediately you may receive a text asking you to make contact. You should check for messages at regular intervals. Penalties will be imposed on crews whose supporters cannot be contacted on the numbers provided.
Unsupported paddlers must provide the number of a phone to be carried with them in the boat, and are responsible for checking this phone at regular intervals.
Note 8. Travel and Parking. The car park near the wharf in Devizes is limited. Therefore cars will only be permitted to park for a maximum of 2 hours. This is more than enough time to arrive, unload and prepare your boat, complete check in formalities and depart. Time penalties may be imposed on crews.
Note 9: End of stage (campsite) rules of Junior Doubles
Paddlers taking part in the junior doubles class must camp within the designated camp sites at Newbury (Northcroft), Marlow (Longridge), and Teddington (TYM). Paddlers are required to follow the instructions of DW Campsite staff at all times and may not leave the campsite until the following morning when they get back on the water to continue the race.
Crews are required to do the following at each campsite:
● Pitch their own tents
● Assemble their own beds
● Prepare all their own food
No assistance is permitted at any times from support crews; eg passing pre assembled tents/beds etc into the campsite. Each morning crews must pack up, clear their quarters and place all refuse in the sacks provided. Crews will not be allowed to proceed until approval is given by a member of campsite staff.
No person other than designated Junior competitors and designated Race Officials are allowed access to any of the campsites.
Note 10: Race Control Centre
Race control can be contacted on 0207 620 0298
If crews are compelled to retire from the race, competitors or support crews must WITHOUT FAIL inform race control immediately. The crew must return the GPS tracker to a DW Umpire, marshal or other official as soon as possible. Race control will be able to assist in locating the nearest point if necessary.
Inappropriate behaviour by supporters and/or competitors will be penalised. Any failure to observe the rules or obey the instructions of any Race Official at any time may render the crew liable to disqualification or other penalty, which may include the individual, crew, club, school or unit being barred from entering future races. Breaches of the Rules must be communicated to Race Control.
The DW organisation and race is staffed by a team of volunteers, helpers and other organisations including the marshals who help out every year. Without their experience it would be impossible to conduct the race. We will not tolerate any abuse verbal or physical and any such behaviour could result in a lifetime ban from the race.
Complaints and protests
Senior Doubles: Complaints/protests must be registered, at the time of the incident or prior to the crew’s departure from the course. To register a complaint/protest you must inform one of the following:
● Umpire or marshal
● Race Control.
Complaints/protests must be registered with an Umpire prior to the daily team leader briefing which is held each afternoon at or about 1600 hours or, for complaints/protests arising out of racing on Easter Monday, no later than 1 hour after the end of racing on Easter Monday.
It is the responsibility of crew(s) to establish whether a complaint has been raised against them. This can be done by checking their results online, if there is a “P” against the crew details then a protest has been made; or by telephoning Race Control.
All crews have the opportunity of delivering a written statement and/or being heard at the Race Protest Committee Meeting on Easter Monday morning. The committee meets within 2 hours of the end of racing on Easter Monday. At this time any crew reported or already penalised will have the opportunity to be heard, or their written statements presented. Any penalty, up to and including disqualification, may be imposed. The decision of the Protest Committee is final. There is no right of appeal against the decisions of the Race Protest Committee under any circumstances.
The organizer reserves the right to publicize the event by means of radio, television, print media and the Internet, as well as film and photo recordings of the events for its own press releases, PR and advertising purposes. The participant agrees to be filmed, photographed, interviewed and/or reproduced or presented in any other way during his/her participation in the event. In this respect, the participant grants the organizer free of charge the rights of use in the representation of his person and his voice exclusively, as well as in terms of space, time and content, without restriction for the above-mentioned purposes. In particular, the right to edit the film and photo recordings in any way, as well as the transfer of the rights of use to third parties, is also covered by the granting of rights.