Page last updated at 13:08 GMT, Friday, 2 April 2010 14:08 UK

Devizes to Westminster canoe race begins

Devizes to Westminster canoe race 2010
The canoe race takes place every year over the Easter weekend

More than 560 canoeists and kayakers taking part in the annual 125-mile (201 km) Devizes to Westminster canoe race have set off from a canal in Wiltshire.

The contest begins in Devizes on the Kennet and Avon canal and traditionally takes place over the Easter weekend.

There are five classes in the event including a non-stop version of the race, which is the longest non-stop canoe race in the world.

The race ends on Monday at Westminster Bridge near the Houses of Parliament.

'Demands on paddlers'

Peter Hutchison, one of the race organising team, said: "Today's conditions are really challenging. The heavy rain and chilly weather are putting real demands on the paddlers.

"Hopefully when they get to Newbury at the end of the day, they'll get a chance to get warm and dry and start again tomorrow."

It's infectious, it's one of the biggest challenges people can undertake
Nick Cox, Devizes Canoe Club

Devizes Canoe Club, which formed 10 months ago, has entered 18 boats.

Nick Cox, from the club, said: "Out of 18 boats, 15 boats are actually novices, they all came to the club in May last year as people who'd never been in boats before.

"It's infectious, I think it's a challenge, it's one of the biggest challenges that people can undertake but it's a challenge any age group of people can do it."

The race distance of 125 miles is estimated to take 90,000 paddle strokes to complete.

The first 52 miles are along the Kennet and Avon canal and the next 55 miles are on the River Thames. The canoeists, known as paddlers, will pass through 77 locks.

The current record time for completing the race is 15 hours and 34 minutes, set in 1979 by Tim Cornish and Brian Greenham.

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