N1SCO Not-So-Inland Championships

The 2017 N1SCO Inland Championships took place on the sea at Swanage (again!), so here it is…

the N1SCO not-so-Inland Championships.

Swanage 2.0 – SUP Harder…

for a number of reason (mainly related to waves and the hopeful lack of them), I was really looking forward to the N1SCO Inland Championships being held at Bray Lake near Maidenhead.  The location was the nearest to us lot in the barren northern wasteland that lies beyond the Watford Gap. The plan was to head down on Friday evening, set up camp, grab a bite to eat and enjoy a swift half, purely to replenish essential electrolytes, minerals and hops, before enjoying a health smoke cured porcine related breakfast and a day of relaxing paddleboard racing.

On Wednesday, I received an unexpected call from Captain Saltwalk himself with the news that there was an issue with Bray Lake (something about an ill tempered mutated sea bass) and they were looking to move the event, possibly to Swanage as we’d been there before and it would mean less paperwork for Alex and the Naish crew.  If it moved, would I still be going?  After a bit of thinking time, the answer was ‘yes’.  OK, it’d be 4 1/2 hours driving each way, plus more expense for camping, but, count me in 🙂

Thursday saw a few frantic calls and messages to arrange overnight accommodation, but Herston Camping where we camped for the European Championships had spaces and we’d be welcome again.

A few of Saltwalk Team couldn’t make it down due to the much longer drive, and after various juggling of drivers and passengers, 6pm on Friday saw fellow Saltwalk Teammate Sara and myself leaving Aldi stocked up with bacon, bread rolls and cider and heading south past Birmingham and Oxford, under the M4 within shouting distance of Bray, skirting past Southhampton and  through the New Forest to Bournemouth, Wareham and eventually into the lovely seaside town of Swanage.

The journey was largely uneventful, even if it was two and a half hours beyond Bray – just don’t mention the dogging site or the Birdie Song!

Upon arrival at Herston, we soon found the rest of the Saltwalk bunch lurking out of the way towards the bottom of the camping field.  Fortunately pop up tents really do take two minutes to put up and peg down, and we were soon enjoying a couple of drinks, philosophical conversation  and Neil’s fairy lights.  At no point in the evening did it get silly, and at no point did we take the Micky out of certain web-toed paddling shoes worn by some members of the group…

Pre race fuelling session

Saturday morning saw a quick pack up of the camping gear and we headed down to the seafront.  I’d actually had a reasonable nights sleep despite the noise of the surf crashing onto the beach two miles away…

We managed to claim some free on road parking and wandered down to the Saltwalk van which was being used for the race registration.

Another day at the office

Yet again, Swanage was utterly glorious. Golden sandy beach, clear water, blue skies and wave after wave of rolling surf (2 inches is a huge amount of swell, isn’t it?).  After registration it was time for breakfast, and we cranked up the stove and cooked a pile of bacon rolls on the seafront whilst we sorted out the boards.

Hmmmmmm. Bacon

It was soon time for the race briefings to start.  The first race was to be around 5KM.  Starting at the pier, up the beach to the harbour wall, around a couple of buoys and then down the beach and round the tiny speck of yellow that was the bottom turn, before retracing our paddle strokes up to the harbour wall again and finishing on the beach.

Briefing

The race itself was much better than my first experience on the sea at Swanage. With the wave height being smaller (chest high if I remember correctly, although the photos all appear to show a few inches high), and much less wind it was much better going.  I even managed to pass a few people!

The next races were the sprints.  Yet again, the less windy and wavey conditions were much nicer than the last race and I had a proper battle to the finish line against a couple of my fellow racers where some tactics actually paid off! A couple of pivot turns were also attempted and as I didn’t end up wet were executed successfully 🙂 Just don’t ask how far back I stepped, or how far out the nose came!

Not coming last

Following the sprints, we didn’t bunk off for some refreshments, and any reports of us doing so are fake news.

It’s hard work racing

The last race of the day was the technical. After some confusion at the briefing, this was to be a proper super lap course.  A beach start followed by three laps, one of which could be shortened (the super lap) at the paddlers discretion, and a run up the beach to the flag to finish.

Startline for men’s wildcard sprint race. This wasn’t taken on the way to the pub…

As with the other races, it was much easier for me than the last Swanage outing. Less wind and swell were ace. The only potential fly in the ointment was being rammed roughly from behind and having a major dunking approaching one of the buoys! Fellow Saltwalk member Neil was apparently very sympathetic and only laughed for a couple of minutes…

Technical race startline

I did make up a few places and had a fight to gain another place on the run up to the last turn before the beach.

With my race over, it was time to watch and cheer the rest of the fleet home.

Casper helping one of the junior races homeStartline for men’s wildcard sprint race

For the race, Alex had arrange for Naish team paddle, several times World and European SUP Champion Casper Steinfath to pop over from Denmark

to give a few paddling clinics.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the clinics due to having to get home, but I did end up with a signed race bib 🙂

Casper with the cast and crew of the N1SCO not-so-Inland Championships

The prize giving was on the beach (Helen managed a bronze medal and Team Saltwalk received the club award by turning up mob handed at each race), followed by fish and chips and ice cream as the sun went down.  A fantastic way to end a fantastic race.

Chippy chips on the beach

Yet again, huge thanks must go to Alex and everyone else who helped to organise the race series. Given the challenges in moving a venue a hundred miles down the road with a couple of days notice, it all went superbly.

So what’s next?

Well, there’s a few more UKSUP races this year, but roll on 2018!

Having looked at my results over the three N1SCO events, I recon I may stand a chance of being on the podium by the year 2039, assuming no one else improves, and possibly a zombie apocalypse 🙂

See you on the water 😎

Photo credits:  photos on the blog are either my own or shamelessly taken from the UK N1SCO Facebook pages where they belong to Casper Steinfath, Andy Stallman or Ian Gray Promotional Filming and Photography.

 

N1SCO European Championships 2017

The weekend of 10th and 11th June 2017 deserves a special mention in the annals of history.  Not only did the weekend see the anniversary of the first Apple II computers being shipped, and the birthday of Elizabeth Hurley, it also saw an international pack of race hungry Stand Up Paddleboarders descend upon the small seaside town of Swanage for the N1SCO European Championships.

My racing (and SUPing) history is still in its infancy, having first stood on a board in the wild for the Race the Train UKSUP event a couple of months before in April.  Since then, I’ve been training at least once a week with the Saltwalk guys and gals in sunny Derby as well as some races (Cardiff 10K and the National Watersports Festival).  I definitely feel slightly more comfortable on a board, as well as slightly fitter 🙂  However, a lack of experience is something only time on the water can address.

Anyhow, back to the N1SCO event.

So, Friday evening for once sees a lightning turn around from getting home from work to getting underway.  Fortunately, we’d packed the car the night before and it was just a question of throwing the kids bodily into the car, firing up the satnav and heading south into the great unknown (or Dorset as it’s called).  For once, the journey down was mostly uneventful, with no traffic around Birmingham and easy driving past Oxford.  The only fly in the ointment was the Satnav trying to take us over the Studland Ferry…

We finally arrived at Herston Caravan and Camp Site at around 9:30 at night, put up the tents, bundled the kids and wife inside, and then I managed to head off for a catchup and team planning and tactics session (definitely not a gentle drinking session with much silliness – no one mention ‘eleven’ or crabs

) before turning in ready to race in the morn!

Saturday dawned bright, warm and windy and we headed down early to the Mowlem Theatre on the shore to register and get ready to race 🙂

Going to be a great weekend 🙂

Even at 7am, there was a bustle of activity on the shore (and free parking to be had!), with Alex and the team setting up for the racing.

Saturday Morning in Swanage

Registration and breakfast were the next to be ticked off the list.  Breakfast was from the Pure Recharge pop up cafe (great porridge and tea, by the way!) and registration saw number 113 issued to myself.  A number that would soon instil fear into all those lurking at the back of the pack!

Beer tokens were also included for the evening 🙂

The answer to Life, The Universe and Everything – Beer tokens!

With registration out of the way, and the rest of the family roaming Swanage looking for sweets and playgrounds, it was soon time for the race briefing to start and the racing (and nerves) to start.

The first race was the mid distance technical race, with an inverse superlap (or something!).  This involved three laps of course, with one lap involving and extra buoy.  You, the racer, got to choose when to do the longer lap.

With the fleet on the water it soon became apparent that I don’t like the sea!  I’d estimate there was an eight foot swell heading to the beach, with wind in the strong gale to hurricane force.  Ok, there may be a slight exaggeration going on here. The swell, if I was forced at gunpoint to admit, may have been more like a foot, but it was windy, with gusts reaching around 25MPH. Perhaps not hurricane force, but definitely challenging for a relative novice such as myself.

Back at the start line, even the huge gentle swell was tipping the odd racer in whilst the wind blew me gently backwards from the start line. Alex gave the one minute warning…30 seconds…10 seconds and go!  I got off to a very British start – after you, no after you, you go ahead, but soon I was underway up to the first set of turns.  For my weekends racing, to give everyone a fighting chance, I’d decided that vigorous jumping to the back of the board, followed by a perfectly executed pivot turn and blistering acceleration away from the mark would be unfair, and settled on a set of slightly wobbly cross deck turns,interspersed with a selection of paddle slapping supports to stop going in due to the head high swell.  Heading up to the upwind buoy was even more unsettling as there were reflected waves from the seawall, leading to an even more knee shaking cross deck turn.  The down wind leg was slightly better, but I still didn’t feel settled in the swell.

Wobbling around the buoy

After taking the longer super lap first, the next two laps were shorter and easier, and the finish flag was a welcome sight. This time, it was a beach finish, surfing in the huge breakers and sprinting up the beach to the flag.

Sprinting ashore from the head high swell

Finishing was great, with a fantastic crowd cheering everyone on, and it was brilliant to actually finish in the (to me) challenging conditions.

Lunch Time

The next event was the sprints.

These involve paddling flat out towards two buoys, turning around one of them, and then hammering it back to the start/finish line.  The course was in the more sheltered area near the sea wall, but this did mean there was the dreaded rebound swell.  My performance in the heats was not brilliant.  I got off to a bad start, caught in the confused wake from everyone’s boards and was constantly unsettled by the swell.  Very happy just to finish!

With the racing for the day finished, there was time to generally mess around before heading back to the tent to get changed before wandering back for the evening meal.

Fun with the kiddies

The meal was great, as were the ice cold beer tokens, and there was even time to enjoy some of the Fish Festival before meandering back to the tent.

Sunday morning was a slightly later affair than Saturday, with having to pack away the camp gear, but we made it down and bagged some free parking, blew up the boards, drank tea and generally procrastinated until the briefing.

A new generation of paddler on the way

This race was to be the long distance.  Long distance in this instance meant 5KM of paddling.  Either two laps of the course, starting near the Mowlem Theatre and heading off to  the yellow buoy miles off in the distance, or a shorter (around 1 KM) option if you didn’t like the look of the full course.

Yet again, I had a very British start (no, no, after you, I insist!) and wobbled up to the first turn.  Upon reaching the marker to take the short course, I very nearly decided to call it a day as I wasn’t feeling the love!, but I decided to go for it as it couldn’t be that bad, could it?

Wrong!

The further downwind we got, the bigger the swell was.  Turning around the bottom buoy was extremely dicey and then it was a energy sapping upwind paddle into the gale.  After making very little headway, and looking at what a number of others were doing, I ended up dropping to my knees and having a (supposedly) gentle paddle up wind.  Whilst kneeling, I was deliberately not powering through as it may have been unfair to those who managed to stand the entire way.  Fortunately, as we progressed upwind and got nearer the shore, the wind did drop a little, as did the swell, dropping from twice head height to somewhere around chest high, and it was time to stand again to complete the first lap.

Heading downwind in the overhead swell!

Lap number two I was not looking forward to after the upwind stretch.  This time, I found it even more leg wobbling at the bottom turn, and had to drop down to my knees just to make it around.  After rounding the buoy, I decided to give standing up a go and just put my head down and paddled! Keeping closer to the shore must have helped and I was making some headway, but after ever stroke it felt as if the board was stationary, with no glide whatsoever. But slowly, stroke by stroke (and inch by inch) the final buoy was getting nearer and with much relief, but very little style, the last turn was made and I even managed to pick up some speed on the way to the beach and the finish flag.

Finishing was yet again fantastic.  There was such a good atmosphere for the weekend and everyone who finished got a cheer from the crowd.  I even managed to run (badly) up the beach to the flag 🙂

Finish line in sight

After the serious racing, there was time for some fun racing whilst the scoring was worked out culminating in a Thunderdome-style-helicoptor-pivot-last-man-standing competition. I’ll apologies to my team mates now!

Very soon, it was time to deflate the boards and pack the car, before heading back to the prize giving.

5K around Swanage Bay

Team Saltwalk did well again with Helen scooping third overall, and a first place in the sprints, and Amy getting a second place in the juniors.

Helen, European Sprint Champion and third place overall
Amy, Second place junior
Team Saltwalk

Did I enjoy the racing?  Enjoy is definitely the wrong word!  I don’t like swell, or wind!  The sprints threatened to throw me in with stroke and the upwind section of the long distance was hard work.

Did I enjoy the entire N1SCO European Championship event?  You bet!

The whole event was a buzz, which I am so glad I took part in.

Would I do it again? Oh yes!

If anyone is considering taking part, do it 🙂  The competitors ranged from 10 – 69 years with all abilities from total novices (as in first time paddling type novices) up to seasoned racers.

My reasons for taking up SUPing two months ago were to regain some fitness, learn some new skills and to meet some great people, and so far that’s exactly what’s happened.

I must say a big thank you to Alex and the team for organising such a fantastic race series, and to Mark, Helen and everyone else in Saltwalk for getting me off my bum and standing up paddling 🙂

N1sco European Championships Swanage 2017

'We hope you have all now recovered after the N1SCO European Championships in Swanage. We loved having you all involved and here is a little film to remind you of the fun we had. We hope to see you all again for the final N1SCO Championships of the season at Bray Lake on the 8th July. www.n1sco.co.uk #purerecharge #whitstablebay #thewatersportsacademy

Posted by UK N1SCO on Sunday, 18 June 2017

See you all at Bray Lake 🙂