Multi coloured sea Kayaks
White Water Paddler in pink kayak

Canoe or Kayak Sprint Racing
Advice on how to prepare 

This advice has been written for those competing in canoe or kayak racing for the first time at the main series of National Sprint Regattas in the UK. Much of the advice will apply to any regatta anywhere. We wish you luck in your first races.

Preparing for your first Regatta

You will learn a lot at your first major regatta making future regattas go a lot more smoothly. However, if you read our advice a few days before you travel you will be well prepared for any regatta.

Where am I going?

Before committing to anything make sure you know where you are going. In the case of the main series of National Regattas in the UK you are going to The National Watersports Centre at Holme Pierrpont just to the North East Of Nottingham City Center. The postcode is  NG12 2LU and the directions can be found at

Work out how long it will take you to get there and bear in mind you may have to be there quite early in the morning for races.

Boats & Boat Transport for my first Canoe or Kayak Race

Do you know who you are racing with in crew boats and have you worked out who is taking which boat? (At the National Regattas in the UK K4s are available at the regatta course for your use so you will not need to worry about K4s.)  Do you know which boat / boats you are using? Do you know that you fit in them and that they are the right weight? Does your boat have a number board holder on the back deck? Have you got a club racing vest (you need one of these in club colours to race)? Make sure you get all this sorted out before race day. If you need to add weight work out a way or fixing the weights in your boat.

Have you worked out how you are going to get your canoe or kayak to the regatta? Can it go on a club trailer? If so when do you need to be at the club to help load up? Will anyone else be using the same boat? If its not going on a club trailer have you got the necessary roofrack and straps to tie the boats on with? When can you get into the club to collect your boats?

What time am I racing? When should I arrive

A few days before the regatta a program will be published. For UK National regattas you will find it here. The programs are quite long and confusing until you understand the classes. Print out a copy and ask your coach to go through with you highlighting al your races in highlighter pen both on the summary list of races and the detailed lists that show names and lanes.

You need to be at the regatta course at least an hour before your first race and more reasonably two hours before. Time your arrival accordingly and allow for hold ups.

What to bring

Don’t forget paddles and buoyancy aid. That’s a good start. Even if you are allowed to not wear a buoyancy aid there are times when conditions get rough that regatta organisers insist on the wearing of buoyancy aids so get in the habit of taking one with you, it can save a lot of stress on a wet windy day.


Never underestimate how cold you can get at a regatta if you don’t have enough changes of clothes and the weather is anything but glorious. Regatta courses are often exposed and the wind can be very chilling. Count how many races you have, add on any finals and that plus a warm up is how often you will be getting at a minimum damp and if not wet.  You might not have enough complete changes of kit for each race but take as much as you can. At least take really warm clothes to change into between races. Putting wet kit back on is not very nice but can be done!! Also take a windproof or waterproof jacket that you can put on over wet clothing to keep the wind off as much as possible.

Don't forget your racing vest. You will need to be wearing one to compete. Ask at your club to find out who sells them o see if you can borrow one for your first visit. Your club will get penalty points if you are not wearing one.

Sun Cream

Of course occasionally the sun shines and then however cold or hot it is you will need sun cream. Do not be one of the many who come back with sun burn. The main issues with sun cream is that after you have applied it your hands have a coating of cream on them that when mixed with water on a paddle shaft makes the paddle shaft very very slippy. Ideally get your Mum, Dad, Brother, Sister etc to apply the sun cream for you but if not wash your hands over and over with soap to get as much of the cream off as possible before getting on the water.

Food & Drink 

As you are going to be exercising on and off all day food and drink will be important to keep your energy levels up. Take a good supply of water that you can use to keep topping up a drink bottle from and keep drinking on and off all day. After each race be sure to have a drink. There is often some sort of food available at regattas but it’s wise to bring some of your own. You want food that you can eat on and off during the day between races. Bananas, sandwiches, home cooked pasta or rice dishes make a good base. A piece of cake never goes amiss but don’t gorge on too much sweet food.


If you have family coming with you and space in or on your car they may well enjoy having a bicycle with them. Supporters can often follow race on bikes much more easily than watching from afar.

Where to stay

If you are racing on both days or your races are early in the morning you might need to stay overnight. Your options are the campsite which is within walking distance, the on site rooms or a local bed and breakfast or hotel.

The on site rooms book up fast but you might be lucky if you put your name down for a cancellation. 

Many clubs have a good social scene on the campsite with members in tents, caravans and campervans all camping close together and socialising in the evening.

What will happen when I get there?

Your first regatta might be a bit confusing until you work out how it all works. Read on for more advice on what to do on the day.....