With low water levels causing carnage, British pair Nicky Cresser and Tom Lusty were the winners of the K2 class at the 59th Liffey Descent canoe marathon last Saturday.
Ireland had two wins – Jenny Egan and John Simmons were first in the mixed K2 race while their Salmon Leap club mate Barry Watkins took his first win in men’s K1.
Taking the correct line in tricky waters paid off as the winning K2 pairing of Nicky Cresser and Tom Lusby discovered.
“We were fourth into Straffan weir just after the start but we got a good line out of it and found we were into the lead. So we pushed on and no-one caught us,” said Cresser.
Finishing second were the 2016 winners Peter Egan of Salmon Leap and Danish paddler Mads Pederson.
“I’ve had a tough year with illness so I’m delighted just to be here – and it’s no shame to finish second behind a team that included Tom; he’s the British number one over 1,000m,” said Egan.
Last year, Egan had won the mixed K2 with his sister Jenny, who earlier this summer, took bronze at the World Sprint Championships in the 5,000m.
This year, Jenny teamed up with Jon Simmons, with the pair celebrating their recent engagement. It was her tenth “Liffey” and by far the toughest. “We were about 30 minutes slower than usual – it was a long, hard slog an a
very different race to normal. We’ve taken lumps out of our paddles,” she said.
For Barry Watkins, his K1 victory was a first. Last year, he finished fourth in K2 with Simmons and he had a special reason for going it alone this year.
“I won the K2 a few years ago with Gary Mawer and I wanted to do the double – a win in both K2 and K1 – before I turned 30. My 30th birthday is next April so the pressure was on,” said Watkins.
Finishing second was his Salmon Leap clubmate Tom Brennan, winner for the past three years.
At the back of the field came the heavy canoes propelled by single bladed paddles. Delighted to have survived her first outing in the open canoe triples class was Olympic rower Sinead Jennings.
Along with Jim Cassidy of Neptune Rowing Club, Jennings was recruited for the Liffey by Larry Tracey, the ex-rower who later managed the Irish Olympic bobsleigh team.
At 71, Tracey was the oldest finisher of this year’s race. Iain Maclean, who was completing his 51st Liffey Descent, is a mere stripling of 65.
For Jennings, canoeing proved quite different to rowing. “For a start, you’re going in a different direction. In rowing you put your head down and go for it whereas in canoeing you have to watch where you’re going.”
So would Jennings do the race again. “Yes – absolutely!”
A total of 266 boats with 407 paddlers in all lined out this year. Many will also compete in Saturday’s Irish Coast Paddling Championships in Greystones.