It was beautiful day last Saturday for the 1st of the U.K SUP clubs race series. The 2014 ‘Head of the Dart’ challenge took place on the stunning River Dart between Dartmouth to Totnes, in South Devon. A sunny start to the day made it almost feel like summer, however the increasing light to moderate westerly wind soon brought a chill to the air, and meant that unfortunately for the competitors, despite paddling with the incoming tide, the majority of the challenge would be into a headwind! But that didn’t dampen the high spirits, pre-event chat about everything and anything SUP, and big smiles on the start line!
A lot of the top names were there, so everyone knew there would be a good race on at the front! However the 4 different classes – unlimited class (board of any size), 14′ class, 12’6 class and the cruising class, meant that the Head of the Dart catered for every kind of paddler. SUPboarders of all abilities were there from all over the county. Some with the goal to make it onto the podium, others back for a second year to try and improve their personal time, and many taking part just to enjoy the buzz on the water and the stunning scenery along the way. It was fantastic to see so many different types of boards taking to the water, with everything from high-performance race boards, and iSUP race boards to recreational cruising SUPs. The Head of the Dart event really is all about having a go and giving it your best shot. The current record for the Head of the Dart is 1 hour 15 minutes, set by Bobby Thatcher with a tail wind. Everyone knew it was going to be a tall order to break his record this year due to the more challenging weather conditions, however that was still the goal for many!
The great organisation and efficient registration process, meant that an impressive sight of 136 paddlers took to the water in Dartmouth, and the race got underway just after 1.30pm. There was a staggered start time between classes to ensure all of the competitors had room for a clean start. The battle was definitely on right from the start! The top paddlers soon took the lead and disappeared around the 1st bend with 12 miles ahead of them.
Paul Simmons (from Starboard UK) with his trusty laptop, the rest of the event organizers and camera crew, made a quick dash to the finish in Totnes knowing that it wouldn’t be long until the first competitors made an appearance. The finishing team set up quickly and waited eagerly, looking towards the last corner for the 1st paddler to come into sight. And sure enough it wasn’t long before the 1st bib came round the corner and into the final headwind of the day towards the finish line. It was the powerhouse Ryan James in the 14′ class that came powering cross the line 1st at 1:24.30. Although the course record was not broken today, with the headwind it really was an astounding time to finish in. Less than a 1 minute later the next group of paddlers were heading towards the line at an incredibly fast pace. Ollie Shilston, Peter Kosinski and Aaron Rowe all had an impressive race on their 12’6 boards. It was a flying finish with Ollie Shilston crossing the line at 1:25.22 and the 2 junior paddlers and SUPboarder team riders, Peter Kosinski at 1:26.03 and then Aaron Rowe only 10 seconds behind them at 1:26.13. Aaron and Peter were then followed by the 2nd and 3rd place paddlers in the 14′ class Ben Payne at 1:26.40 and Pete Holliday at 1:28.57. Rob Stewart came across the line closely behind in 1:29.20 taking the 1st unlimited place.
There was also a great turn out in the women’s fleet in all categories, and some more impressive paddling to be seen. Jo Hamilton Vale showed an impressive performance being the 1st lady across the line in the 14′ class at 1:35.38. Marie Buchanan also had an incredible race being the fastest women in the 12’6 class at 1:35.29, and overall the fastest female to complete the Head of the Dart, beating Jo by just 9 seconds! Following on in the women’s 12’6 division Lindsay Frost showed her paddling strength by grabbing 2nd with a time of 1:40.11, despite not being at the peak of her fitness. Fran Blake took a well deserved 3rd position in the 12’6 class at 1:42.55.
In tough conditions the cruising class also demonstrated their impressive paddling and determination. The mixture of abilities and board sizes goes to show that the ‘Head of the Dart’ really is an event for everyone, and doesn’t have to be all about racing. Although many beat their previous years times, others just enjoyed chatting and making new friends along the way whilst enjoying the scenery! Lucy from the SUPboarder team even managed to complete the course 7 months pregnant!
Seeing 136 competitors crossing the line in their various classes, all with the look of excitement, joy and sense of achievement on their faces, showed the first event for the the UK SUP clubs race series really was a great success. A massive congratulations to all the paddlers who took part in this event, and a big thanks to all the event organisers. Is it really possible for the 2015 ‘Head of the Dart’ to be even bigger and better!?
All times shown are corrected for the staggered start.
14’ Male Class
- Ryan James 01:24:30
- Ben Payne 01:26:40
- Peter Holliday 01:28:57
12’6’’ Male Class
- Oliver Shilston 01:25:22
- Peter Kosinski 01:26:03
- Aaron Rowe 01:26:13
14’ Female class
- Joanne Hamilton 01:35:38
- Christine Anderson 01:47:12
- Julia Haggis 02:08:48
12’6’’ Female Class
- Maire Buchanan 01:35:29
- Lindsay Frost 01:40:11
- Fran Blake 01:42:55
Unlimited Mens Class
- Rob Stewart 01:29:20
- Kevin Nind 01:40:04
- Rene Raimondo 01:45:15
Unlimited Female Class
- Jocelyn Jones 01:55:25
To check out all of the photos from the GlobeShots Team, download and buy them visit their photo shop here globalshots.photoshelter.com
The full results for all of the catergories is available here on the Head of the Dart website.
For more information on the UK SUP clubs and the race series visit their website here.