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Webmatters : Marquion : The Highlanders' Trophy 2013

Canal du Nord

The Highlanders’ Trophy

Background

The Memorial Project of the 15th Battalion C.E.F. unveiled a plaque dedicated to the 48th Highlanders of Canada alongside the Canal du Nord at Marquion on 24th September 2012.

At the time, the somewhat crazy notion of marking the event with a canoe race on the canal was proposed by yours truly. My intention had been for others to do the paddling because frankly I have an aversion to all things boats and water. Ultimately the weather saved the day because it tipped it down preceding and throughout the opening stages of the inauguration ceremony. I might have been getting very wet but at least I was firmly planted on dry-land.

But you can’t let a good idea get away on you. The Memorial Project had very kindly offered a Highlanders’ Trophy Plaque to the local kayak club in Marquion and with a view towards 2018 we were still hoping to get the competition off the ground.

There were a couple of problems to be resolved. Should the race take place between the villages of Sains-lès-Marquion and Marquion which would truly follow in the Highlanders’ footsteps but by its nature be impossible for spectators to follow ? Or, should we try for something simpler in front of the clubhouse at Marquion ?

The major issue was : traffic on the canal. French canals are not simply used by tourists in small pleasure boats. They are used by working barges that take up a lot of space and could be a source of danger to competitors.

The Race

Working with Stéphane Danel of the Club Nautique de l’Agache, it was concluded that as the club holds a triathlon on the 1st May each year (whilst the canal is closed to traffic for Labour Day) the Highlanders’ Trophy Race could be included in the afternoon’s events. It would be out of sync with the anniversary but at least the weather, in theory, ought to be better.

The route for the triathlon passes the Highlanders Monument

The Triathlon passes in front of the Highlanders Monument

The race would be conducted over a two kilometre loop in front of the club’s boathouse and our memorial plaque for ninety minutes. Teams would be made up of four people (working in pairs) in a two seat canoe. Each crew would be allowed to swap members at the end of a completed circuit.

 

2013

The 1st May turned out to be gloriously sunny and we were extremely pleased to have a party of eight service personnel travel down from the Canadian Forces Support Unit Detachment Casteau in Belgium to participate in our first race. Ultimately for the idea to be a success it is essential that we obtain a Canadian input.

Stéphane produced a bottle of champagne and the event was toasted. Then he and Camil Guerin sorted out the teams. In order to promote the Franco-Canadian theme, three teams were formed consisting of three Canadians and a French member of the Club Nautique.

Blue Green Orange
Christopher Miron Camil Guerin France Forget
Katrina Miron Christian Charron Sophie Pouliot
Davy Malingréau (Fr) Christian Boucher Philippe Guerin
Théo Passante (Fr) Stéphane Danel (Fr) Victor Danel (Fr)

The reason for the two young French crewmen in the Blues was because Christopher and Katrina are a husband and wife team with experience of rowing together.

Everyone soon got into the swing of encouraging their team mates in a mixture of French and English. Although the canal is quite calm, the going was a lot harder than some may have thought. As the crews had not been able to practice together beforehand much laughter was to be heard as canoes encountered some early difficulty in keeping a straight line.

Rather suspiciously the ‘adult’ Green crew containing both Camil and Stéphane took an early lead and managed to maintain their lead with moderate ease; even after Camil had taken a short swim in the canal—he insists he dove in. From the bridge it looked like a fall to me but what would I know, I am the son of an airman.

Our other two teams battled it out for second place in a hotly contested mix of hard paddling and calculated crew changes. France and Sophie led the vociferous support, which threatened to capsize the landing stage a couple of times. There was also a certain amount of skulduggery during crew changeovers.

If the intention of the race was to have fun then everybody appeared to be winning.
With twenty minutes remaining on the clock Victor and Philippe managed to claw back the lead on Davy and Théo to put the Orange team back into second place but there was very little in it and the next crew change was going to offer Christopher and Katrina the chance to catch up.

For the next three circuits Victor was going to have to hold the fort for the Orange Team for it was at about this moment that France found herself taking a swim. That, in itself, was not the problem. It was that she was so busy shouting her team-mates on that she left getting changed into something dryer far too late and missed the hand-over. A tired Sophie was forced to continue for a consecutive circuit with the fresher Miron couple ever closing the gap.

She managed to hold on and France took over for what was to be the last complete circuit.
The ninety minutes up, each team had finished fourteen two kilometre circuits. The honours went to the Green Team, 1st Place; Orange Team, 2nd Place and the Blue Team, 3rd Place. Not that any of this really mattered.

We were fortunate that everyone had a medal to take home and the honours were equally shared on the podium by French and Canadians. The medals and Highlanders’ Plaque were presented by Julien Olivier, Mayor of Marquion.

Full credit must be given to the Club for having organised the presence of the Canadian party, re-creating our exposition explaining the history behind the event, providing all the medals out of their own funds and being most generous with their hospitality throughout. The word back from Belgium is that everybody that took part had an excellent afternoon and hope to be able to participate again next year.

 

Some photos from the day’s events

Marquion

A lot of high-fives were indulged in prior to the off Stéphane Danel explains the race over a bottle of Champagne It is a popular day out The Canadian flag flying above the club house We are going to have three teams: Orange, Green and Blue Is Philippe taking this seriously enough ? Choose your weapons The battle for second place was a hard won affair throughout the race Stéphane paddles, Christian pauses for a photo opportunity France and Victor continue to hold off Katrina and Davy But the Blue Team get the faster change-over Still in good form but there is a lot of time left on the clock France and Victor enjoy their first break Say that again and in you go ! Camil is going to get so much wetter than this The top buoy is opposite the Highlanders' Monument Théo and Christopher for the Blues Christian and Stéphane piling on the pressure Happy that the paddling is over Playing about in boats He should never have pushed Théo in-revenge is best served in a cold canal Théo, Davy, Katrina and Christopher Announcing the places Sophie, Philippe,Victor and France Christian, Stéphane, Camil and Christian M Julien Olivier, Maire de Marquion presents the medals With the Highlanders' Trophy Plaque

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