Since stand up paddling was added to the historic rowing event back in 2009, Starboard has been a major sponsor and has helped grow the Head of the Dart SUP Challenge to become the UK’s best attended SUP event. With a scenic rural location in South Devon, England, the river race runs eight miles on a winding river between the towns of Dartmouth and Totnes. This year the strong winds meant that “Plan B” was implemented – a seven-mile “down-and-back” paddle starting and finishing in Totnes. Battling the incoming tide and facing mostly headwinds, the first half of the route was particularly challenging, as was the solitary buoy turn, exposed to a stiff breeze and strong current, making for numerous wobbles and falls!
With tidal flow at its peak for the return leg, tiring paddlers were given a welcome boost all the way to the finish. Many of the 200+ paddlers had reservations ahead of the event due to the windy conditions so as many of the leisure fleet crossing the finish-line, emotions were a blend of relief and sense of achievement and for some exhaustion, still (mostly!) smiling.
The bulk of participants simply look to complete the distance or battle friends but at the sharp end of the race fleets positions are keenly contested and our Starboard paddlers enjoyed fantastic success:
· Marie Buchanan won the ladies’ 14ft division (9th overall, under four minutes behind the fastest man!)
· Ryan James won the men’s 14ft division and fastest paddler overall
· Ben Pye (14′ Sprint) was second youth (placing 5th overall)
· Paul Simmons (12’6″ Airline All Star) was second 12’6″ and first inflatable (2 minutes ahead of the first 14′ inflatable)
Results – Starboard riders highlighted in bold!
1. Marie Buchanan (Sprint) 1:11:39
2. Ginnie Odetayo 1:16:34
3. Holly Henderson (Sprint) 1:17:27
1. Ryan James (Sprint) 1:08:03
2. James Van Drunen 1:08:09
3. Aaron Rowe 1:09:07
1. Fran Blake 1:24:03
2. Ellie Daynes (Ace) 1:30:16
3. Holly Pye (All Star) 1:30:41
1. Blue Ewer 1:14:14
2. Paul Simmons (Airline All Star) 1:14:18
3. Norman Coburn (All Star) 1:23:04
Overall a great kick-start to the season in the UK for the racers and leisure paddlers alike!
Words by Paul Simmons for Starboard UK / Pictures supplied.