Writer: Shane Cronin | Photographer: Mick Feeney
The Liffey Descent is one of the biggest tests for those who think themselves tough. This year’s 32km race from Straffan to Islandbridge may be the hardest in the history of the event. The prestigious contest is part of the International Canoe Federation’s Classic World Series which has a cash prize purse attached.
Competitors who take to the water on Saturday, September 15th, will face a test of grit and determination on the lowest water level in years. As has been the case with many international canoeing races after the hot and dry summer, the paddlers will have to read the river carefully to find the deepest, fastest water. They will have to get out and carry their boat at least once: there is a mandatory portage at Leixlip dam.
There are 10 weirs to be negotiated. The winter storms downed trees and broke branches along the course, and organisers have been clearing blockages and choke points.
The Liffey Descent is a big draw for canoeists from outside Ireland. Of the hundreds already entered, 86 will travel from abroad.
Jenny Egan, who took a bronze medal at the canoe sprint World Championships a few weeks ago plans to return from the canoe marathon World Championships in Portugal for the race. Last year she won the mixed K2 title with her brother, Peter. “Fingers crossed – I hope to return for the Liffey,” Jenny Egan said.
Top competitors will be fitted with GPS tracking devices and can be followed on line all the way down the course.
Some of the internationals will stay on to compete at the Irish Coast Paddling Championships on September 22nd on a course linking Greystones and Dun Laoghaire. This new race over a 20 kilometre sea route has a prize fund of €55,000.