29th July to 1st August 2021
Story: Sarah Thornely and Glyn Smith
Photos: Supjunkie and Glyn Smith
If you want a feel-good team event that pushes your fun receptors to the limit, you should look no further than the Trent100. Born in 2016 by people with a passion for adventure, challenge, happiness and partying, it’s become one of the best events of its kind – in fact, it is the only event of its kind in the UK. Having been involved myself since the time of its creation, both on the water and off, I would thoroughly encourage all paddlers, be they just at the start of their paddling journey or a seasoned racer, to have a go. It’s an achievable thing, and the friends you make along the way make it a worthwhile adventure. I’ve had a slightly broken body and ribs from the Trent100, which was not from being on the water! They party hard.
Glyn Smith has been involved with this event from its inception, and here is his take on it – it sets the scene and gives you some great practical advice from pre-event, top tips and what you need to make it a success for you and your team. If you want to enter the event and do not have a team or mates to go with, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the organisers – they will put you with a group of like-minded paddlers you will make friends for life through it.
Here is Glyn’s great write up of the Trent100:
For those of you who don’t know what the Trent100 is, it’s a whole bunch of laughs with a two-day 100km paddle down the River Trent thrown in for good measure. In reality, it’s two days of fun, laughs, banter, sore muscles, food, exhaustion, blisters, new friends, old friends, perhaps a small drink or two, sunburn, energy drinks, bites, and a sore head on Sunday morning. If you were in Team Saltwalk Glitter, it also involved an aubergine, some glitter and lots of pink!
In slightly more detail, the Trent100 involves paddling from Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire, not that far from the river’s source to Nottingham, 100km to the east. The trip is over two days, with an overnight stop just over halfway, near Derby.
2021 is slightly different than previous years in that it is now based around the halfway stop at Twyford, with three nights camping included, rather than the previous year’s one night only. The fun starts on Thursday night near Derby at base camp. On Friday morning, bright and (very) early, a bus from camp will take you to the start. You’ll then paddle around 57km down the Trent back to base. Saturday will see you set off once more, this time to Nottingham. After around 43km of paddling, you’ll be shuttled back to camp. Food is provided at the camp, and if it’s as good as the grub we’ve had the last couple of years, we’re all in for a treat.
This will be my third outing at the Trent100. My first experience was as a volunteer, and this is an excellent way to be part of it if you don’t fancy padding the distance or can’t get the time for the entire event. There’s a small army of volunteers beavering away in the background to make the whole thing run smoothly, with people helping at portages, handing out drinks, manning checkpoints, making sure you don’t get lost (it’s possible!) and generally ensuring everyone has a fantastic time. If you want to be part of it, but don’t want to paddle, seriously consider helping out – it’s hard work but great fun!
If you’ve got this far, the chances are that you want to paddle it!
One question that comes up a lot is, “How fit do you need to be?” First of all, this is a challenge but not a race. You’re paddling roughly 30 miles a day, but it is all downstream. You need a reasonable level of paddling fitness; make sure you have done some longer 30km+ paddles beforehand. You will be standing on a board for several hours, but you certainly don’t need to be an ultra-paddle veteran to do it. There are some fun training challenges in the months leading up to the Trent100, so keep an eye out on social media.
It’s also worth getting some time on the water with your Team. As we were part of a race team, Team Glitter had regularly paddled together in races and longer paddles. One thing that worked especially well for us was drafting, as it gives a real boost to the following board. If that’s not an option, it doesn’t matter as you will have long enough to bond and even learn to draft if you’ve never done it before.
So, what’s the actual paddle like?
It’s a fair old distance, and the river changes character massively over the two days. You start under the 16th-century packhorse bridge in the Shugborough Estate to whoops of encouragement. At times, the river is shallow, narrow and fast, with small gravel rapids, overhanging trees and water obstacles to navigate around. The river gets progressively bigger throughout the challenge, with several checkpoints to check in to; some you float by, others you stop to refuel on water, Red Bull and Haribos (and before anyone says it, Tangfastics are amazing, and if you don’t like them, I’ll have yours).
There are a couple of portages to negotiate, but nothing too extreme. Several hours after the start and after passing the Willington cooling towers for what seems like 50 times, you’ll get to camp for a welcome rest. You’ll understand about the towers when you’ve been there!
The next day you paddle into Nottingham down a much bigger river! The river is much wider and deeper. There are still the odd shallow patches, but the main obstacles are clumps of weed and other water users as you near Nottingham. Swarkestone rapids are great fun, and there’s no shame in kneeling on the way down!
In previous years, there was a lap of honour, or possibly pain, to add 3km onto the distance to make it up to 100km – paddling upstream from Trent Bridge and then back may have caused a sense of humour failure. Let’s see what’s in store for us this year! It’s a great sense of achievement crossing the finishing line, with all teams cheering each other on.
Glyn’s top tips
Make sure you have comfortable paddling gear – you’ll be on the board for a long time! Dress for the conditions as well.
A buoyancy aid is mandatory. We’re on a river with obstacles and rapids. One with a hydration bladder would be superb, and a pocket to stuff sweets and your phone into is handy too.
A waist leash is also mandatory. It’s a river with obstacles. You need to be able to detach from the board quickly if needed. Make sure you take some advice about how a waist leash works and practice a few times beforehand.
First Aid Kit (waterproof). One needed per team. You also need a first aider on your team, but hopefully, you won’t need either!
Throwline. Two are needed per team. If you’ve never used one, it’s worth having a session learning how to throw one and how to be rescued. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use one. (If you’re carrying a line, also consider carrying a rescue knife in case of entanglements).
River fin. The upper section is especially shallow at times, and a shorter fin makes a lot of difference. It’s worth practising with a small fin before the event as it makes a massive difference to the board’s handling and not everyone likes going sideways for 50km.
Hydration pack. There are places to refill water along the course, but make sure you have enough water with you to stay hydrated. I used a one-litre waist hydration pack and took a two-litre pouch on the board (which I didn’t need in the end). Many cans were consumed at various checkpoints.
Snacks. Salty and sweet and plenty of them. We had times where our team were getting ‘hangry’. Jelly babies on the go work well for a slight sugar boost and fit nicely in the pouch on your buoyancy aid!
Food. Proper food is a must, so take time to eat some proper food and not just snacks. Also, make sure you have a decent breakfast before paddling!
Drybags. These are great for putting things in to stop them from getting wet on the trip. They are great for this sort of event. Having one or two bags that can easily be removed from the board make the portages a lot easier.
Sunscreen. Plenty of it – we’ve ordered plenty of sunshine especially!
Fly repellent. There are quite a few flying things around that bite, so something to keep them away is helpful.
Hat. Keeps the sun off your head.
Sunglasses. Partly to help you see. Mainly to look good.
Spare clothing. It’s worth having a few bits of spare clothes amongst your group.
Spare paddle. Worth having a spare with your group.
Sense of humour. You’ll need one, especially for the cooling towers!
Thank you, Glyn, for that great round-up of this fabulous event – it really should be on your wish list! If you have any questions about the event or want to see videos and photos from previous events to inspire you, take a look here: http://www.trent100.com, Trent100 on FB and @trent100k on Instagram.