Highlight video, post race chat with winner Pete Holliday and event review from Andy Joyce.
Last weekend saw the 2016 Head of the Dart SUP Challenge take place in the beautiful surroundings of South Devon on the River Dart. It is one of the largest annual SUP events held in the UK, and this year the challenge had a sold out entry of 150 paddlers, split 50/50 between serious racers and leisure paddlers. Perfect conditions greeted the racers on their one way paddle from Dartmouth to Totnes (8.5 mile) so the times this year were going to be fast. After the race SUPboarder caught up with the fastest man ever! – 14′ winner Pete Holliday, and later with another top UK paddler Andy Joyce to get their thoughts on their day on the water…
Pete Holliday 1st 14” Class – Time 1:12.33
So Pete, how do you feel? 1st place overall, 1st place 14’ and a new course record at the first race of the season!
WOW that’s a lot of firsts isn’t it? I’m really really pleased as you can imagine. What a great result in the end and all down to the last 10 meters of a 12.5km race.
So tell us how the race went?
The start was a little chaotic due to the starter horn not working & I could faintly hear a countdown from 15 seconds and I was facing the wrong way, still, I managed to get away and straight into clean water. Ryan jumped on my wake and we led out, with Ben and Charlie taking an inside line just behind. With a slight tail wind we were flying along looking at the GPS, so I kept the head down. 5kms in we switched and I got Ryan to pick the pace up out front. We had a good lead on the guys behind but again we got a little lost taking the wrong line & loosing a good 20 seconds to the guys behind. I took the lead again & we pushed hard to open the gap back up.
The top section is really hard to pick a line with some massive shallow mud flats just below the surface. That’s where our GPS was useful to see the faster channels. We switched positions again and Ryan to the front leading us up towards the finish. He was smashing it really hard but I stuck to him like glue and just over 1km from the finish I pulled out & along side to make it man on man. I think I might have chosen to do this a bit early in hindsight… the finish seemed to be a million miles away at this point and my lungs were bursting and legs like jelly.
We absolutely hammered it stroke for stroke alongside all the way up with Ryan having his nose just ahead and in control the whole way. Every time I surged he had an answer so I figured it was all done and he’d take it, but literally meters from the line he fluffed one paddle stroke change and boom I popped over the wake on the side of his board and shot over the line in first place… a new course record too, taking 3 minutes off the previous time that was set on an unlimited but has stood for 6 years!
It looked great from the shore seeing you guys having it out on the water, any love lost there?!
Absolutely not, Ryan is my best mate and training partner 4 times a week. I know he was gutted by the result but he’s a great sport and was absolutely there to celebrate the win with me. That’s what I love about the sport and the people involved, great camaraderie. We have a tight knit training crew down in Bournemouth and we’re all great mates off the water too. We had some great results today taking 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th in 14’ and also 1st & 2nd inflatable. All the local bournemouth crew.
So what were you paddling today? No more BIC?
Well BIC have started to move away from the race board market as they lost their shaper last year so I was looking for something new and competitive. I have a possible new sponsor lined up, but due to shipping container issues that may or may not happen until the end of the year. In the meantime I bought an old 2013/14 board and have started customising it to suit me. I’m taking off weight, volume and playing with some other aspects. It’s a great hull shape so just exploring how you can customise an existing board to get what you want. I think it’s working.
Any shout outs?
Yeah absolutely, a huge congrats to every one of the 150 paddlers today. It’s so great to see so many more new faces and a growing SUP scene in the UK. Well done everyone. Thanks to Paul, Dave and the Starboard crew for putting on the event, SUPboardermag of course for the best coverage in the business and a big mahalo to Ryan, I’m off to buy him a beer!
And here’s Andy’s account of his somewhat eventful weekend! Even for the top racers it doesn’t always go to plan!
Andy Joyce 6th 14′ Class – Time 01:15:49
Saturday 9th Off to the river for a paddle….Bang! Clatter! £$%* Van blew up – I can’t make the surf SUP event in Puts! Even worse, might not make it to the Dart…. but my massive mate Rob Stewart came to the rescue with a ride share on the Friday. We had an early, but beautiful start to Sunday driving through the Dorset and South Devon countryside with little traffic.
Got to Dartmouth without a hitch, registered, caught up and chatted to ohana we have seen and haven’t seen lately.
We prepped well, good food, good stretching and relaxed.
All went well till the start. On the line, looked to my right and saw everyone go! Paddling buddy Bryce Dyer brilliantly summed up our start experience:
All the training in the world won’t make up for wobbling around at the start, falling off and losing 200meters on the lead pack. Wobbling around crashing into other people like you’re on a bouncy castle doesn’t help!
Ended up 500meters from the start in about 20-30th place – grrrrrrreat!!
I used a fast chipping cadence I’ve been practising and made it back up to 8th by the half way mark. Had a little rest and a drink drafting Tim Harley and Charlie Jones. Sneaked past them about 2 miles from finish, put on the gas and off to the homeward straight. Firing for the line, glanced to my right and there’s Tim again! Just didn’t have the gas left in the tank so Tim finally pipped me into 6th by a few board lengths- well done bud!
The times were very fast, tide and wind working with the riders for a change. I recorded an average speed of 9.9km/hr (including falling off) which is the fastest I’ve got my Fanatic Strike going so far.
In the distance I could see an intense paddle to paddle battle for 1st and 2nd for the entire race. Pete Holliday won by a stroke off Ryan and beat the course record of 1hr 14min, by about 2 minutes! Then Ben P, Scott B following close behind. Tim and I were around 2-3 minutes after that.
Great to catch up at the end, swap stories and have some food and drinks with everyone. Well done to all who were involved and a big thanks to all the Tushingham crew for amazing organisation and making it such a great event. Special mention to Jamie Harmen who drove back to Dartmouth to pick up Rob’s and my gear we’d left there- including my clothes……DOH!!
Get it right next time…….maybe☺
Well done to all the paddlers who took part in the 2016 Head of the Dart SUP Challenge. A fantastic event, in a beautiful part of the world, for all level of paddlers from the worlds best to the complete novice. Don’t miss out next year. Get this one ticked off your SUP bucket list!
The full results can be found here.