If you finish the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race then thank your support team as they will have done at least 50% of the work. It is such a team effort completing the race and your support team are crucial – don’t underestimate how much you need them!

Before you read the bits and bobs below, make sure you visit the DW Supporters Website. There is a wealth of very detailed information there already that I’m not planning on repeating.

What do the support team do?

The main role of the support team is to keep the paddlers in good condition – well fed, watered, clothed and motivated so they can keep moving as fast and efficiently as possible.

The support team are also really helpful in guiding the paddlers through the portages, especially when the routes are more complicated and confusing to tired paddlers navigating in the dark. The support team can’t help carry the boat or paddles, but they can help open gates, direct the crew to the correct side of the river and lead them round the portage route.

A chief supporter is also responsible for helping race control communicate to the crew, for example if there are any changes to the race whilst they are paddling.

How does it work?

It normally works something like this:

The boat arrives at the portage and the support team are ready waiting. The crew haul it out of the water and run/walk with it around the lock. The support team open gates, stop traffic and guide the crew to where they can put the boat back in the water. As the crew are moving around the lock and/or as they get back in the boat, the support team puts food in their mouths and swaps over their empty water bottles for full ones. The crew will be holding the boat and paddles so the support team will have to physically feed the crew with tasty bitesize nibbles.

With regards to being physically fed, my father-in-law was on our support team – I’m not sure I appreciated it at the time, but retrospectively it was a great bonding experience!

How do I make sure my support team are prepared for the day?

It’s a great idea to train with your support team so they know what to expect. The inevitable pub lunch after your training session will also give you a chance to talk through the race with them and answer any of your questions.

We sent out some detailed information to our support team the week before the race with timings and our strategy. If you want an easy option, then I’ve made an editable version of that document so you can adapt it as you wish.

supporter info sheet picture

Download the supporters information sheet here for £2.50:


Your support team will also need some sort of guide on where to meet you and when. Although they will be able to access your tracker it’s helpful to have an estimate of where you might expect to be at certain points in the race. Have a look at the race page if you want to see how we did this.

There’s a great collection of driving instructions on this DW Supporters Website. It is geared up for the four day race, but the locations are all the same. If you want an easy print-out then here’s one we put together for our support team:

Parking directions picture

Download the parking directions here for £2.50:


What’s in the Zero to DW Hero eBook?

  • More specific information on what the support team should do at each portage
  • Advice on who to ask to be part of your support team
  • Suggestions on how many people you should have in your support team and why
  • Information on what a support team can and can’t do
  • More detailed advice on how to prepare your support team for the big day

Download the Zero to DW Hero eBook here (£15):


If you’ve got this far through the site then by now you should be ready for the big day – it’s race time!

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© S Hicks 2018

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