DW is organised and run entirely by volunteers. One of the many challenges we face is finding the 350+ volunteers required to make the race 'work' every year. There are so many jobs that the volunteers do both over race weekend and throughout the whole year. Some serve on the organising team, these people meet every month, either online, by telephone or in person. Most give time over race weekend when there are unpaid heroes all along the course who give up their time to help others face the challenge of the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race. We have a steady supply of people who regularly give their time - we think they do a fantastic job.
However we always need new people to help with new tasks or step up when others have decided to move on. Here are some examples of what we require:
- Devizes - helping to set up and break-down Devizes, kit checkers, marshals, time keepers - making sure Devizes works from start to finishing, working with Keith Bennett and his fantastic team. It starts long before Easter Weekend, with most of the set up taking place on Maundy Thursday with the site usually closing down late afternoon on Easter Saturday.
- Umpires: Making sure the rules are upheld (for crews and support teams), essential to the running of the race along the route.
- Marshals: Instruct and guide paddlers and support crews all along the route, control the movement of supporters at particular points along the course, helping when appropriate.
- Checkpoint Crews - record the time and numbers of boats passing through checkpoints all along the course and report them to Race Control. Great job if you like sitting by the water (at times through the night).
- Camp Site Crew: Organise and run the three camp sites at Newbury, Longridge and Teddington for the four-day race.
- Communications Team: Based at Wokingham Waterside Centre, provide the central communications link for the race.
- Safety Boats Teams: To support safety of the race and rescue if necessary - they sit for hours in a boat, get very cold. Crews are in operation at different locations, mostly on the Tideway and around Westminster.
- Westminster - many different jobs, we can use you for a few hours or three full days (and nights). DW Westminster Village is erected on Saturday morning in the grounds of St. Thomas' Hospital, it has showers, toilets, communications, first aid, two mobile caravans, the paddlers' supporters' tent, and a large marquee with a kitchen and sitting area for the paddlers. The set up is done by volunteers and takes most of the day. Westminster volunteers for instance include a few that have never been near the race, but bake cakes, snacks etc. which the Westminster site crew serve to the competitors support crews. It's a great job for young people. Here are some more details about the volunteer roles:
- Westminster set up crew: Help set up and break down the DW Westminster Village.
- Westminster Marshals: Move the human traffic along the Embankment, through to the gardens and around the finish site to manage the congestion.
- Westminster Steps crew: Assist the paddlers from the water, some in the water, others on the steps.
- Westminster Garden Crew: Feed everyone at the finish
We also need volunteers throughout the year as part of the Organisational Team members - people prepared to assist throughout the year with the race, whether in the context of publicity, finance, safety, communications or negotiating the necessary permissions to run the race.
These are just some of the things our volunteers do. It can be hard work, the weather can be awful, some have very little sleep, tempers get a bit frayed. On site at Westminster the added hazard of 'Big Ben' for company, and the emergency services going over Westminster Bridge with blues lights flashing and sirens wailing. But you can have a great deal of fun. As with much of DW, it can be character forming! Many of our volunteers come back every year, some from Germany, Isle of Wight, and Norfolk, so it can't be that bad.
Volunteering is a way of giving something back to the race for those who have done it in the past and also a way of familiarising yourself with it if you are thinking of doing it in the future. It can be great fun and very rewarding and many of the teams come back year after year. If you are interested in helping in some capacity or want to learn more, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator Rachel Dennis.
To volunteer some time or enquire about what is involved, please email Rachel Dennis or get in touch through the DW Group on Facebook. Let Rachel know how you're prepared to help along with your contact details and they'll be passed on to the most appropriate team.