AN ANNUAL canoe race from Devizes to London got under way, in rain, wind, snow - and even sunshine.

The Devizes to Westminster canoe race has been run every year since 1948.

To mark the 60th birthday of the event this year three of the race's first competitors were on hand to wave off this year's paddlers.

Former Devizes Rover Scouts Pete Brown, Laurie Jones and Brian Walters watched the race start in mixed weather.

Mr Brown said: "This has become a wonderful event.

"We had no idea when we did the distance 60 years ago that it was going to develop into anything like this. It is so impressive."

This year's 125-mile race started in wild weather and was unusual because of a particularly high tide predicted for the River Thames.

Because of that tide organisers ruled that no canoes were allowed on the river during the hours of darkness.

The winning crew is likely to complete the course in about 17 hours.

Those setting off yesterday were the paddlers planning to spend the entire weekend completing the epic slog.

That included entrants in the senior singles, junior doubles, veteran/junior and Endeavour classes.

Among the veteran/junior entries setting off were Nick Gompels and Oliver Clark, from Market Lavington, near Devizes.

Pharmacist Mr Gompels last took part in the challenging race four years ago with Oliver's father, John Clark.

Mr Gompels said: "Oliver has been keen to do the DW since then and now he is old enough, I agreed to crew with him.

"It's going to be chilly, but I think we'll have a good time."

It is the earliest in the year that any DW race has taken place.

Pete Thomas, the teacher in charge of training at Dauntsey's School, in West Lavington, said: "Because Easter is so early, we missed out on about three weeks' training, but with 11 crews taking part from the school this year it is our biggest entry ever and they are all well prepared for it."

Mr Thomas is also taking part with Allister Sheffield in the Endeavour class, which is for senior doubles competing over four days.