The last race of the season on the UK SUP Club calendar was in Weymouth on the 22nd October. Another early start and 3 and a half hour drive through some pretty thick fog saw me arrive on the Jurassic Coast. I’d never been to Weymouth until the Naish National race earlier this year but I’d love to spend some more time there, it’s beautiful!
After saying a few quick hellos, I headed off to register. On the walk over, the first thing I realised was that it was easily 5 or 6 degrees colder than it had been in London, and the water in the harbour looked pretty choppy! After registering I hopped in my car to make a quick trip up to 109 Watersports to make the final payment on my board
A massive thanks has to be given to Callum and Sara at 109 Watersports for sponsoring me for the season. And also to Alex Tobutt who put together the team of Naish racers for the season. I am so grateful for the opportunity to race this season and have loved every minute of it!
I had a quick chat with Callum about the course for the day as he was going to be one of the safety boats crew. He has a big map of Portland and Weymouth on the wall and showed me the different course options. It definitely reassured me as I had been quite worried that the course might take us far out of the harbour in to conditions which I’m not used to.
Next stop was back to the car park to unpack my gear and inflate my board. I bought an electric car pump which has been one of the best purchases of the season- saves the arms and lungs! Due to the conditions, I decided to inflate my board to 18psi instead of 15, which meant topping up the air with the hand pump. This didn’t go to plan as the hose came off at the pump and deflated some of the board! Luckily Mark Price was on hand and was freezing so he was only too happy to help me re-inflate my board!
Soon it was time for the race briefing which confirmed my fears that it was going round be a tough race- it would be a challenge just to remember how to stay on course! The course consisted of 6 laps, one big lap and five smaller laps and quite a few buoy turns.
After swapping my wooly hat for a yellow and black hair bow to match the board (thanks Sarah Louise Smith), we were soon heading out on the water and bobbing around on the start line waiting to set off. It was already pretty choppy thanks to, I’m told, an easterly wind unusual for this time of year. The N1SCO class set off first up and along the inside of the harbour wall which offered a little protection from the wind.
The water became pretty glassy near the inside of the harbour wall, almost a tease of what could have been if it wasn’t for the wind. The glassy water soon ended as I reached the end of the harbour wall and remembered that we had to paddle out to the right before paddling straight in order to avoid the rocks. I had no idea how far right to paddle and was concentrating on staying on my feet when I noticed the waves coming in. All thoughts of paddling the whole course standing up went out my head when I saw a couple of racers ahead of me fall off due to the waves.
Although I’d love to try downwinding, I figured mid race is not the time to try it so I dropped to my knees and tried to stay on the board as I went up and over the waves. I think I probably did half of the race standing and half on my knees, I am pretty pleased that I didn’t fall in and did stand up where possible.
With the big lap soon finished, I started on the five smaller laps. These had a section inside the harbour wall and a section outside of the harbour wall. The section outside of the harbour wall proved to be really challenging with rolling waves and I soon realised that I’d have to paddle that section on my knees too.
I have to confess that I had no idea what I was doing in the waves, even on my knees and had to concentrate to stay on the board. Turning the board with rolling waves was also interesting! Despite this, I really enjoyed this section of the course and could probably be heard laughing quite a way away.
On the second little lap I caught up with Rebecca Littlewood, another N1SCO paddler. We got chatting and decided to paddle the rest of the rest together which made it even more enjoyable. We even had a go at drafting each other which was nice to work as a team.
We found it hard to keep count of the laps but were surprised to be called in just before our last lap. Due to the conditions it had been decided to stop the race on the lap that we had just completed. Although we were a little sad to not do all the laps, it was also a relief to finish without falling in!
After a quick shower to warm up, it was time for the prize giving and end of season dinner. Unfortunately due to the long drive home, I wasn’t able to stay for the dinner and end of season prize giving but I heard that they were awesome.
I was very surprised to get a message from Amanda Stewart later in the evening to say that I’d won a trophy…
I was presented with my trophy the following weekend at the Trent 100. No one would be more surprised than me to learn that I was the most improved female N1SCO paddler of the season and improved 25% on the lead paddler. Over the moon!
All in all it was an awesome first season of racing. I’ve learned loads, travelled to new places and met some awesome new friends. I cannot wait for next season and am already planning some Winter training. If anyone is thinking of getting in to SUP racing and is a little unsure, my advice would be to just do it, it’s great fun!
The racing season couldn’t happen without lots of people giving up their time so I’d like to thank:
Alex Tobutt (for organising all things Naish and letting me be part of the team this year)
Callum and Sara at 109 Watersports (for sponsoring me. If you’re in Weymouth then go check out their shop!)
Jo Hamilton Vale and Peter Vale (UK SUP Club- for organising the races and schedule)
Georgia Wharton (for taking awesome race photos including the ones in this post)
All the volunteers, safety crews and marshalls for keeping us safe and making everything happen
The other racers and supporters for making every race really enjoyable.
See you next season!