This was the 6th race for me in the UK SUP clubs series, so really looking for some good points to add to my series total. I’d been away in Pembrokeshire on a great family holiday for the week before this one and I really backed off on the training due to feeling worn out from lots of races and training since February.
Did only one 40 minute high intensity buoy turn and beach run session on Tuesday evening and a cool little surf sup on Friday morning. It’s the 1st time I’ve really backed off all year, did lots of stretching and releasing off of my weary body. Fell nice and loose by Friday.
Usual pre comp nerves on Friday night. Had I backed off too much? Would my paddle break during the race? Shall I use my open water Ace or flat water board? l told myself only time will tell and let this nonconstructive thinking pass through my mind. Ended up with a relaxed but broken sleep, courtesy of my 2 and a half year old popping in and out of our bed:-)
Up at 6 to help get things ready for the race, as it’s our club’s turn to host the event. Stunning weather continued on Saturday morning as I arrived at Sandbanks. The BaySUP committee and crew all pitched in, helping to direct our guests and set the event up. In between all this kept hydrated, ate Super Vitality flapjacks and got some coffee fixes!
The 4 and half hours before the start of the race flew by. After cheering on the juniors race got ready to go. A couple of sprints out to the buoy and back with beach launch and finishes warmed me up nicely and felt I had prepped well. The SW hadn’t got up yet and I was wondering if I’d made the right decision with the ace over my flat water board. I always hate the 10 minutes before the race, you know that it’s going to be gruelling, but can’t wait to get going and needed to release the tension. I did this by sharing my thoughts and joking with my paddling ohana, this helped.
On the line, big field of around 30 in the 12’6”. A minute to go-tight as a drum, took some deep breaths and got ready for the horn…….WTF? Everyone to the left of me started into the water and everyone to the right were still on the beach!!
Found out that the early starters heard the countdown but didn’t wait for the horn. Expletives launched with my board and us right hand sider of the field charged through the wake and chop of the early starters. The Ace performed brilliantly in this stuff and managed to get into 6th or for the 1st buoy turn, not as great as I expected, but clear enough to get on with it.
A long technical race, with 5 laps of a one mile course with 5 buoy turns, on the Ace they are difficult to negotiate to say the least. The straights of the course were sweet, picked up nice bumps on the returns from out back and really gained ground in these sections.
The buoy turns? Wellllllllll, those were exciting and the fun started right from the 1st buoy turn. I was late putting in the blade, ended up going straight and Simon Frost harpooned me with his all-star! Totally my fault, not too much damage done and it least the impact managed to turn my board where I had failed!
This is where I lost ground I made on the straights. I wasn’t the only one, loads of us were falling. I think Aaron Rowe and Pete Kosinski (PK) are right in saying that we relax too much from hard paddling (so we can flow smoothly round the buoys) that we tip over with the direction change. It made the race one of the most exciting races I’ve ever had the fortune to be in, with lots of position changes. I went from 6th, 5th, 4th, 2nd, 3rd, 2nd, 3rd.
I managed to pull in second and 3rd (PK and PJ Simmons) on the straights and made ground better on the bumps (The Ace excels here) than the other racers. Once you hit a bump in front it usually slows the board down and it is nigh on impossible to punch through it. Not so with the Ace, it simply pops over the bump with a couple of hard paddles and on to the next.
It wasn’t easy to get round these guys. On buoy turns these guys are amazing, just couldn’t get round them and once I crashed into the tail of PJ and went flying. Finally got round on a downwind section on lap 3 and got going. I was lucky-found out later that PK has broken his fin on the 2nd beach run which probably caused loads of drag on his board and PJ’s forearm had seized up preventing him from hammering down. He fixed it and then went on to win the 14ft Class afterwards!!!!
I was VERY lucky today!
Now in second and the rest of the race for me was a battle with Ollie O’Reilly. Aaron was about a minute out in front after an awesome start and had clear water for most of the race, so 1st was out of my sights. I was second, but had Ollie tailing me and the distances kept opening and closing-exciting to watch, more so being part of it!
The last lap, Ollie managed to catch me off the beach and we duelled it out to the end. I stuffed a turn on 3rd Buoy, he came up alongside, out onto the straight before 4th, I pulled him in. 4th turn-he falls!! I get round, but he manages to bounce off the sea bottom (shallow and he’s tall!) and come up neck and neck. Last buoy even, round it and racing for the line. He pulls ahead and I get sucked into his boards wake! Come out and go for it, but he’s just in front and hits the line for 2nd and me 3rd.
A great race and we both congratulated each other and enjoyed the buzz-I wanted to get another podium in the series, but wasn’t sure if I could and this fulfilled my dreams. Yessssss! All the hard work and racing has paid off. Thinking about it afterwards, if I had reset my sights after getting into 2nd I maybe could of held it? I could have paddled just that little harder at the last buoy or last lap?
But I didn’t, Ollie’s an excellent competitor, super fit and 21 years younger-so no drama finishing behind him. Well done bud!!
Rest of the day passed well, the feeling, memories and spirit is still strong in my mind as I write this.
Unfortunately had to bail before the day finished as family duties called, but managed to catch up with the crew later on at Canford Cliffs and unwound over a few beers-nicceeee. Just want thanks everyone for a top day, Starboard UK for support (as always-cheers guys you’re brilliant!) and my latest sponsor Super Vitality for nutritional fuel!
Big up to all the BaySUP massive for their work and a special mention to Nick, Marco, Pete, Venencia, Laura, Paul, Frenchie and all the early crew for outstanding efforts to make it happen.
Lastly, all of us would like to dedicate the day to Mark Bowra, one of our tribe who unfortunately suffered a stroke after the Bray Lake Ultra- Get well soon buddy, this one’s for you xxx
For more info about the race and results, check out: https://www.facebook.com/events/1486152834929674/ or https://www.facebook.com/UKSUPClubs?hc_location=timeline