Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Anglesey Sea Kayak Race - 22nd May 2011

This was the first running of this event organised by Open Adventure and Adventure Elements. The original plan was to race from either Trearddur Bay or Benllech in a loop, visiting electronic control points on bouys covering over 20km in distance. However the weather was not playing ball and strong SW winds put paid to any thought of using the exposed coastal locations and the "plan C" location of a race in the Menai Straits was used.

I'm sure a number of people were disappointed with the thought of racing in the Straits, but in the end it turned out to be an excellent location.

The start was by the Anglesey Sea Zoo and 4 surf skis, 21 solo kayaks and 4 doubles lined up for the mass start. After the traditional 3-2-1-Go there was a mad scramble to get boats into the water and spray decks on. John Willacy and Nigel Jones set the pace on the first section of the race heading down towards the two bridges. Initially the conditions were very windy with small surf pushing us downwind.

A little more shelter was had once the field passed Y Felinheli and it was on to the two bridges and the notorious "swellies" - the tidal rapids. To add interest to the race, the organisers had set up three electronic controls in swellies that had to be visited in a set order, forcing us to loop back on ourselves. The first was just "downstream" of the Menai Bridge, the second was by Church Island and the third was back up below Pont Brittania. You could opt to miss out the electronic controls, but this incurred a 45 minute penalty. This loop was very entertaining for spectators and the paddlers had to fight their way back up stream using eddies close in to the shore or just fighting their way back up the main flow.

Once around this loop is was a straight race down past Bangor Pier and finish at Gallows Point. This started off sheltered but soon became more exposed with more surf and wind on our backs.

Nigel Jones on a ski was first followed by John Willacy in his Taran. First lady back was Justine Curgenven.

As far as my own race went I wasn't comfortable in the downwind/surf sections. I was struggling to get any rhythm and only made up time/places on the more sheltered sections. Maybe this was down to lack of practice in surf, but also the small integral rudder of the Epic is not very effective in these conditions (it is out of the water frequently). I was overtaken by Justine in the Swellies and nearly retook her approaching Bangor Pier, but as the wind and surf picked up again I dropped back finishing 7th kayak in a time of 1:46:38 - 20 minutes behind the leaders.

The event is expected to take place again next year, and hopefully with better weather will attract a larger field.

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