As always the season kicked off with the Head of the Dart distance race. This year up river from Dartmouth to totnes, some 13km.
This was the first race on the new UK SUP Clubs series (more on that in another article)
With 150 entrants this was always going to be a tough race. Conditions were agrarian from perfect on the day either, not only going against the current but we had a strong headwind all the way.
I got a great start getting clear water right off and holding my own against Ryan James for the first kilometre or so.
Damo Warner managed to hop on my tail and got a free ride for a while but I used some safety boat wake to break the chain and get away. Unfortunately Mark Slater caught a great bump and came screaming past me on the wake. I worked hard and gradually clawed him back as we got to the first twisty section.
The race briefing had made clear instructions to keep right at all times, myself Ryan and Mark were close together and all took the right hand side of the he river trying to escape some of the wind. About 4kms in the safety boat came blasting up behind us shouting we had gone the wrong way!! We all looked up and saw about 15 guys way ahead of us going up what we thought was a tributary, but was actually the main channel. We were over half a kilometre off course and psychologically a tough challenge to battle through the pack. By the time we tacked back across river to the main channel I was back in 15-16th place.
We we’re into a brutal open headwind section. I knew I couldn’t waste time and had to push hard to make back places fast. I avoided the draft trains and hung wide, knowing if I tucked in I’d take it too easy and I didn’t want anyone to jump on my tail either.
About 7-8 km’s in I had made good ground and was around 5th. Pushing on I got to 4th and was behind solid local paddler crispin Richard jones. I got alongside and crept past but crispin was quick to jump on my tail and grab a ride. Knowing I had to shake him off I tried every trick in the book to loose him. Zig zagging across the river, trying to use other paddlers to block to throw him off. eventually hard work paid off and I just buried myself to get some space.
I had pulled back to third and could see Ben Payne in 2nd ahead but despite emptying the tank up until the finish I just couldn’t make a back enough time before the end of the race. Crossing the line 3rd considering the early mistake I was still pretty pleased. I overcame the physical and mental challenge of being way way back which was good promise for the season ahead.
Here’s the event video: