The Lost Mills International SUP Race (plus road trip)

The Lost Mills International SUP Race 2013

So after the awesome SUP Race Cup myself, Ben Swails & Chase Kosterlitz decided to head off on a little Euro road trip to take us all the way up to Germany for The Lost Mills race.

Tuesday – the road trip begins

Having had some pretty pants weather in the South of France the forecast suggested we were heading to even worse weather in Germany, wet & windy… GREAT!

So Tuesday afternoon we hit the road & headed east… destination unknown… well we kind of decided to head to Italy & check out Genoa for a night.

The road to Genoa was epic, one of the most scenic roads I’ve driven in a long time.  The highway ran along the cliff edge with tunnel after tunnel carved into the hills along this dramatic coastline.  One tunnel was 7km long!

We arrived in Genoa about 9pm, not really knowing where we were going we found a couple of hotels close to the Port.  Ben ran in to check one of them out & ran back out like an excited schoolboy… “we’re staying here guys!” was all he had to say!

Hotel view
Hotel view

We did the classic sneak of booking for two & squeezing in three of us, I drew short straw & ended up having to stroll in 5 mins later pretending I knew where I was going!  It seemed to work.  Chase & I tossed a coin to decide who got the bed & who got the floor… result I won. I was super pleased knowing I had a long drive the day after I needed some sleep!

We headed out for some late dinner, we could all have eaten our right arms we were so hungry.  We literally crossed the road & hit the first restaurant we came across, BOOM did we hit gold!

It was quite literally some of the best food I’ve ever eaten.  Without doubt “The best f**king Balsamic Vinegar ever”

We stuffed our faces on 4 courses with wine and rolled out back to the hotel for some sleep.

Wednesday – The drive

We woke to a sunny morning, Chase & I headed out for a paddle in the Port while Ben went for a run through the city.

Although sunny it was really windy so Chase & I paddled round all the marinas, then upwind right to the sea entrance, we turned for the fun downwind home to hear the horn of a cruiseliner coming into Port… shiiiiiiiiiiit it was heading our way at great speed.  We put our heads down and paddled like crazy trying to milk every bump, the roar of engines getting closer & closer we made it into the safety of the final marina seconds before it came charging past to dock…phew!

After a huge breakfast we hit the road again, destination Deutschland.

Again a stunning drive, right up through Switzerland, The Alps before getting into Germany.  The road up into the Alps was just amazing.  I wished I was driving a sports car not a van, the switchbacks went on & on right to the summit, stacks of snow on the ground but beautiful clear skies.

snow
Snow at the top of the Alps

Just after we went over the summit we came to a bracing standstill  Just a few cars ahead a lorry had slid off the road & the road was blocked!  Luckily we had plenty to keep ourselves amused… Snowball fights, snowman, lunch… eventually the Police opened one of the smaller alpine roads & we turned back to cut around the accident & got on our way.

We finally arrive after some 9 hours driving & hours of debate on the future of SUP racing, at Lost Mills (Brombachslee)

Lost Mills event site
Lost Mills event site
Lost Mills event site 2
Lost Mills event site

 

Shattered the boys hit the hotel & I hit the campsite… SLEEP….

Thursday – The Fastest Paddler on Planet Earth

Thursday was a pretty chilled day, the only event was a sprint based race, two man heats racing an electronically timed 200meter course.  All on 14ft boards we lined up to get our number & heat draw order.  The qualifiers were man on man.  The start line was 5 metres before the timing start line to allow you to get up to speed.  I lined up with fellow UK rider Ben on a borrowed 14ftx25 BIC I’d never paddled before!  GO… and off we went… flat out… With a slight side wind it was hard to keep straight in the lane so I ended up paddling the same side all the way.  I had a good few board lengths on Ben until about the 150m mark when paddling one side started to take it’s toll.  He was catching me but it made me dig deeper & I finished the lung busting run in just over 1 minute.

After all the guys & girls too their turns the top 20 times were selected to go through to a final.  Somehow I had just made the cut!  Wooo hooo!

It was really interesting watching all the other participants.  Everyone has such different styles.  Fast cadence, slow power strokes, wide stance, square stance… every option seemed to work though!

We had a short rest before the final heats were seeded.  The concept was the slowest qualifier started & would most likely hold the title until the next guy who in theory would go slightly faster & take the ‘hot seat’.  I was 2nd to go & as expected I took the lead with a time of 1.02.93 but I’d fluffed it… This time I thought I’d go for a paddle change to keep the speed up but messed the changeover, lost a second or so & then had to change back again for the finish – should have stuck on one side!

me - fasts paddler final
me – fastest paddler final

 

Jim Terrell - sprint master
Jim Terrell – sprint master

 

me post sprint heat
me post sprint heat – seeing who’s going to take it next

As the heats went on each guy more or less took the title in turn… it came down to the last few guys… BIC teammate Eric Terrien put in a blinder on his custom 23” board…

Eric 2nd in sprints
Eric 2nd in sprints

Travis Grant was up but the timing equipment messed up on his run… they sent him back to go again… what a stich up!  There’s no knowing what he got on the first run but having to do it all again his time was way off…  Finally Connor Baxter was up.  He absolutely emptied the tank smashing a 00.53.17 second 200m & taking the $7000 Brietling watch!  Super well deserved, the guy seems unstoppable on sprints! I placed 15th overall in the end so was pretty stoked!

fastest paddler results
fastest paddler results

Friday – Mid distance & Survivor race

Friday morning saw the mid distance race.  Advertised as a 4km, it ended up being 6km’s!  A few of the big guns sat the race out to rest for the big distance on Saturday so I managed to borrow Eric’s spare 14×25 & got amongst it!

We lined up for the start, a race to the other end of the lake & back… simples!

start 6km
start 6km

When the horn went somehow I got an absolute blinder of a start… I was straight into clear water & leading the race… Aussie hot shot Jake Jenson pulled up alongside & sat in my wash for a bit but we were out front by a good few boards for about the first half a kilometre or so… then BOOM Jake stepped it up, came past & as it gave me a wobble * got engulfed from both sides by the pack.. Jamie, Bart, Jacko , Johan, Arthur… I fought hard to regain balance & keep some power down knowing I needed to jump onto the train.  I tucked in behind Johan, Beau O’Brian on my tail… the pace hit max as the guys tried to establish position.  I decided give the opportunity I was going to give it my all to stay in the draft train.  I stuck good until the halfway mark when a slightly slower turn I lost the back of Johan.  Beau was shouting me on to push hard to get them back (Beau was on a 12’6 inflatable.. YES inflatable… how the hell was he staying with us all on 14’s!!) I pushed with every bit of energy I had & got back behind Yohan but I started to fade.  Beau sensed it & jumped past to take the lead & give me a rest.

6km mid race
6km mid race

I tucked in & we pushed hard to keep on the tail of the lead guys, heading back up to the finish I decided I had rested enough & it was time to make one last push & really, really empty the tank.  A few yards from the final buoy turn into the beach I pulled out & powered past Beau & got half a board length past the guy ahead of him too… then disaster struck… the support boat (with camera man) realised he was going to miss the finish so booted it past us all to take snaps of the last turn to the beach… I was concentrating & pushing so hard I didn’t realise there was a large wake coming up behind us… it was too late… I had a massive wobble, my weight was all in the wrong place & I fell backwards landing on the board lying on my back!  All I could think (in slow-mo) was ‘don’t fall off!!’ but the inevitable ‘splosh’ happened… I jumped straight back on but with tired legs & water still choppy I went straight back in again… Beau  was back past, the other guy was back past & then the next guy (Jim Terrell) came past too… LIVID it was over!  I got back on & there was still so much wake I actually surfed form the buoy right to the beach.  I was gutted I’d messed up but it’s a good lesson to learn… always keep your concentration!

6km finish
6km finish

Still the positives far outweighed… I had placed 10th against some of the best paddlers in the world & had stuck to them all the way round (even if it did kill me).  It goes to show was a good start & the ability to draft can do for you!  The pics show how close I was to the guys coming into the final turn, stoked!

6km results
6km results

Survivor Series

After a couple of hours rest the fun continued with the Jamie Mitchell Survivor Series race.  I was really excited to see how this race format worked as we are running a similar style event at BaySUP in Bournemouth September 14th (Get involved people!).  Basically it’s a knock out sprint format round a 5 turn 800m course.  We all line up on the beach facing up the beach with our paddles stuck in the sand about 3 metres away.  Heat 1 had 30+ guys, the last 6-7 get knocked out but the big catch… there is a 2 minute countdown to  heat 2 which starts as soon as the first guy finishes… The first guy also gets a 3 second head start for the next heat, second place 2 seconds, third place 1 second.. small margins but invaluable to get clear water in the carnage. The horn goes, we grab paddles, run back down & grab boards & charge into the water… it was total mayhem… heat 1 went ok easily through, heat 2 however after a couple of falls at turns I was cutting it fine, so fine that the horn went literally the second I had stuck my  paddle in the sand so I had NO rest! Heat three I literally died… came in right at the end and was knocked out… I couldn’t talk I was so exhausted… all in just 20 minutes… mental! The other guys had two more rounds… Connor took first place honours and actually won EVERY single heat, unbelievable effort!

This was without one of the most fun but utterly brutal races I had been involved in.  I cannot wait for the BaySUP Survivor later in the year.

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Saturday – The Lost Mills distance 18kms

The race for Saturday was originally scheduled to run late afternoon but the weather forecast was looking really, really bad so the organisers managed to switch it around & get us started early!  We all fuelled up on a hearty breakfast & got ready for the off.  The was a 14ft race but sadly I couldn’t borrow Eric’s spare as it was already baggsied by team-mate Celine.  So there I was with 100 odd paddlers around me most of them on 14’s, I knew this wasn’t going to be a good day haha.

18km start
18km start

 

I didn’t get the start I hoped for.  I quickly got caught in a large pack, loads of turbulence & people crashing into each other everywhere, you could barely get a paddle in the water for carbon.  Eventually we broke apart & draft trains started forming.  The format of the race was down to the end of the first lake, portage (run with board & paddle) across a gravel & grass track & into the second lake, paddle right to the end & all the way back again… a right slog.

18kms mid
18kms mid race

To add insult to injury the heavens opened… it was raining so hard it hurt your skin & was so cold I couldn’t feel my hands of feet only about a third of the way through the race!  Quite a few people started pulling out of the race… I felt like it too, my body was in bits from the last two weeks & being on a 12’6 was so disheartening.  I don’t think I have ever been so far back in a race from the leaders… still I carried on & got a second wind coming back up the big lake.  Angie Jackson caught me & I could see she was in contention for 3rd 7 maybe a 2nd so I absolutely smashed it back to the portage to help drag her up towards the position ahead.  At the portage she dropped off, like all of us the legs were really struggling to work!  I made up a few places on the run & hit the water & tried to get one of the guys to work with me (Leonardo).  We took turns for a while but he didn’t seem to have much in the tank so I pulled out & took the lead all the way back… he sat on my tail & I knew he was going to make a cheeky attempt to take me on the line, I was having none of it & hammered it out at the end, we sprint finished up the beach, it was over (at last!). I quickly found out team-mate Eric Terrien took 1st place by a huge margin, leading from the outset he took it to the top guys & got a hugely deserved win – I was super chuffed for him.

Exhausted & freezing a bunch of us hit the sauna & Jacuzzi at the hotel to warm through before prize giving. It took me 10mins in the sauna to get the feeling back in my feet!

So that was it… the trip was done, the racing finished all that waited was a long drive home after prize giving…

 

6 countries

2500 miles driven

70+ kms paddles

7 races

15 steaks

A LOT of beer & chocolate

Many, many great memories and new friends…

 

I’d like to send out huge thanks to BIC team captain Eric Terrien for loaning me the 14ft & for helping with some translation services in France J

Ben Swails, thanks for the company on the drive dude, it was a great adventure & hopefully the start of many more.

Chris ‘Bossman’ Parker – thanks for sorting out all manner of ‘stuff’ buddy, great to hang out you are The Man!

ZRE / Chi / BIC / Bomber – thanks for such great products that help me through the events.

 

My full results from the two European events:

 

The Lost Mills International – Germany – 18km distance (12’6)- 4th

The Lost Mills International – Germany – Survivor Series (12’6 inflatable)- 15th

The Lost Mills International – Germany – 6km distance (14ft) – 10th

The Lost Mills International – Germany – Fastest Paddler On earth (14ft)- 15th

The SUP Race Cup – St Topez – Distance race – 28th

The SUP Race Cup – St Topez – Beach race – 27th

The SUP Race Cup – St Topez – BIC one design – 3rd

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