Distance in: 32,6km
Five kilometers from the end is the final big obstacle! Cradock Weir is synonymous with the Fish, and has played a role in determining who wins the race in most years. “I SHOT CRADOCK WIER” is one of those achievements every paddler wants on his or her CV!
The weir is three meters high, and V-shaped in design. It has an unusual, double-stepped face, which is initially vertical, with a forty five degree slope at it’s base. It is five kilometers from the end, and immediately before a bridge which is easily accessible from the nearby main road.
The first fifty boats will be allowed to shoot the weir where, when and how they please.
But for the bulk of the field, there are some rules and recommendations that need to be followed:
First, be patient. Shooting the weir is a slow process, due to safety structures in place. This means that a queue will build up quickly, resulting in a wait of up to thirty minutes. If you are determined to shoot it, race hard to the weir to get your place in the queue, and then use the time to catch a breather while you hang onto the reeds!.
Second, don’t jump the queue!
Third, follow the instructions of the safety marshals. One safety marshal will be perched on a chair above the weir, holding a big STOP/GO sign. That person can see the safety marshals below the weir, and will only give you the “GO” sign once the boat ahead of you has cleared the weir, or the safety crew has pulled the swimmers and their boat to safety.
You will see two buoys close to the weir wall. Approach the weir slowly from the right, aiming at the buoys, paddling steadily, but not too fast. The buoys mark the V apex of the weir, which is where you want to shoot this weir to avoid the effect of the pullback that operates along both sides of the weir.
The ideal position to shoot the weir is at an angle of sixty degree to the weir wall. You will achieve this if you approach from the right and pass between the buoys. The best position is to have your cockpit (or the front cockpit of a K2) go over right at the V, or apex of the weir. It is useful to take a line that aims you at the car-park on the left bank. When you get to the edge of the weir, make sure your paddle blades are on the left hand side of the boat, as you need them to brace against the weir as you go over.
The most important thing to concentrate on at this stage is sitting comfortably in your seat, and having a neutral balance. Neutral balance means sitting straight and upright as you go over. Don’t lean heavily against the weir. Use the support of the left-side brace as you go over. It will feels as though you are being washed over with the natural flow of the river, and not forcing it.
It all happens very quickly! If you are sitting comfortably, you will find that you will lean back as the nose goes over (your torso should always be upright at all times when shooting weirs), and you will slide down the face of the weir at a sixty degree angle. The nose will hit the water first, and you will go chest deep into the water. As you hit the water, shift the paddles from the left-side brace, to a right hand stroke. This will provide more stability, and necessary power to help break free of the pullback. Once you are stable, be aware that you will be pointing into the small bay on the left hand side of the river, with strong eddies, so make a concerted effort to turn right, and get back into the main current of the river.
If you do swim, don’t panic! There should be no need for drastic measures such as trying to remove your lifejacket or swimming down to get away from the pullback. The lifesavers are quick and well qualified and will either dive in to get you, or throw a rope or rescue torpedo buoy to you.