Blog #14 – Norfolk Ultra 2018

We’ve had yet another full-on weekend – this time, it’s been all about long-distance racing as Dunc was competing at the 70km UK SUP Norfolk Ultra 2-day endurance event. Plus his awesome support crew of El, Kev, Barry and Steve also helped steward the event – and in doing so they really did SUPsect very proud! Norfolk was the first stage in this second year of the three-race national endurance series run by the one-and-only Jo Hamilton-Vale, so a lot of people had been putting in a lot of training over the winter in preparation, Dunc included. We convoyed north to set up on Friday, camping right next to the river at Martham Boats, ready for prep then a big cook-up and chill-out before a relatively early night ahead of an 8am registration on Saturday morning. Soon enough everyone had relocated to the race briefing and start at Acle where Steve put up the drone (for the first of many flights) to capture the startline action (look out for that on YouTube and Facebook pretty soon!) Then the SUPsect steward crew headed over to South Walsham to run checkpoint one – where on top of accounting for, feeding and watering everyone, things weren’t without drama as a couple of the 50 competitors had to retire injured. Their morning’s work definitely earned the guys a well-deserved afternoon paddle to the pub: a 12k round trip up to The Pleasureboat Inn at the top of Hickling Broad! Meanwhile Dunc was having a good first day of the race – initially second SUP off the start behind Phil Plume, then soon enough third as super-high-cadence Chris Thorne came charging through to take the lead. It was a tough day into a reasonable headwind but Dunc was feeling good and managed to keep the two leaders in sight all the way through to Hickling Broad where he finally began to close the gap on Phil. With 7km of the 37km day to go Dunc took his chance to power past onto Horsey Mere and pulled away to finish day one in 4:17.21 as second placed SUP overall and comfortably first inflatable. So the pressure was really on for day two, when Phil had a serious point to prove as he went away strong and fast off the startline, staying close to an uncatchable Chris – while Dunc had decided to roll the dice and went as hard as possible to stay in touch and try to defend his minute-and-a-half advantage for 2nd place, digging in deep (in retrospect, way too deep!) for the first hour in an attempt to match the pace of the carbon boards on his inflatable. But that effort after the previous day’s late push soon took its toll and by halfway at How Hill 5th-placed Maff Wall had pulled up alongside. Then halfway home at 20km, 4th placed Pete Stubberfield also came past on his way to reel Maff in, while with 8km to go Dunc’s back began to lock up. Then it was an hour of sheer pain and determination to maintain something approaching race pace into the wind and tide towards the finish line; Dunc got there, finishing in 3:31.09 about 4 minutes behind Phil and a couple behind Maff and Paul – but with enough of a buffer from day one he just lost one place, slipping to 3rd SUP overall behind Chris and Phil. Still first inflatable by over an hour with a combined time of 7:48.30 (see full results) – breaking 8 hours to make top three SUP is a result that he’s super-proud of … but valuable tactical and pacing lessons were learnt too! The prizegiving began with well-deserved praise for all of the volunteers, including our own SUPsectors, plus Steve won the inaugural ‘Superman’ award for his drone prowess and awesome shoreside technical support, before Dunc picked up his amazing handmade Australian red gum tree trophy for 1st iSUP. All that remained was to say our goodbyes to fellow racers, volunteers and supporters before heading home – OK, maybe with a quick pub stop for dinner at The Old Ram on the way with a few of our friends from Suffolk SUP!

Next up on the UK SUP endurance series is the 55km Thames Ultra on Sunday 24th June. Wish Dunc luck if you see him!

But before that, next up for SUPsect is of course SUP Club on Wednesday evening, when it’s looking like a fresh south-westerly system might be on its way. Have to say it’s too close to call this early – a 0.6m 7.23pm low tide could suit the Ray from Two Tree if the wind plays ball. But while it’s currently forecast light throughout the day, there’s quite some SSW breeze appearing by the evening so we’ll have to see which way that goes on the updates. If it’s too windy we’ll be going back to the river, probably from Hoe Mill Lock.

Looking back, and last week’s SUP Club at Chalkwell Beach was a surprisingly brilliant night despite (unsurprisingly!) slightly less than ideal conditions. It was a sunny day so that north-easterly breeze was bound to veer east-south-easterly with a sea breeze effect through the afternoon, so we started our evening with a good old-fashioned Chalkwell chopfest with some rolling chop coming in from the Crowstone. But soon enough as the day’s heat dissipated the wind backed offshore again allowing a few fun rounds of British SUPdog. And finally on the end of the tide we even got a 3km cool-down paddle up to Essex Yacht Club and back before dinner and drinks at the Elms. Lovely! See plenty of pix on Facebook.

And looking forward again, we’re back into school mode this weekend with two back-to-back days of Learn to SUP and Refresher Session lessons up at Papermill Lock – spaces are booking up pretty well now as we’re into summer, although we do still have a couple of spots left on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning at www.supsect.com/learn-to-sup

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