One design racing hit new levels in the UK last Saturday 9th July. 103 Naish Ones took to the start line of this years N1SCO National Championships in Portland Marina, Dorset. Racing followed the standard N1SCO format with multiple races taking place during the day and paddlers seeing their overall result based on their three results from a Long Distance, Mid Distance and Sprint race.
N1SCO races have been springing up around the country and the idea of everyone racing on a level playing field using identical boards is clearly proving popular with N1SCO now the biggest racing fleet in the UK and attracting some of the country’s leading paddlers as well as complete novices trying their first race. Hosted by the Boat That Rock restaurant, spectators were given a prime view from the balcony overlooking the racing and live music added to an already buzzing atmosphere for a good old social between races.
Racers were greeted with decidedly Autumnal and windy conditions perfect for the Windsurfer and Kitesurfers thrashing around in the distance. N1SCO races are always planned around flat water so the sheltered waters of the Marina allowed for shortened courses to be set allowing all competitors to complete the races regardless of experience.
The shortened long distance course effectively became more of a technical course where reigning Champion Ben Fisher dominated with his early speed in the race getting him clear of the field and the mayhem that comes with 100 boards arriving at the first turning mark together. Ben’s form continued throughout the day but a new face to N1SCO, Maurice Guy who is often seen on the UK hard board race scene was close on his heels.
Competition in both the top ten male and female fleets was intense with positions changing throughout the race and podium positions left wide open until the last race. In the end, consistency proved key as well as keeping clear of pile ups at mark rounding which were proving costly. The mens podium was rounded off with a tie for 3rd between London paddler Sam Hyman and Plymouth Waterman Dave Ewer who led the way in the Masters category too.
In the end the podium went to Sam after the tie was split by who had the highest placing in any race. With the mens fleet being over 65 competitors, the mid fleet was perhaps the toughest place to be with rafts at buoy turns and positions lost much more easily than they could be picked up over the shortened courses. Strong paddlers such as Keith Gorman, Steve Trott, Maff Wall and Sam Wood all suffered at the hands of bad luck in races, finding themselves wedged or on the wrong side of a collision leading to unusually high scores in one of their races.
With such rapid growth in fleet numbers, the racing format is being tested and Alex Tobutt, event organiser commented, “It has been great to have such strong support this season and the numbers here are fantastic and I could have only dreamt of this support a year ago. Now the hard work begins as we take feedback from those paddling and develop the racing format to fit the demands of a bigger fleet. It is going to be exciting and we have gained valuable experienced from this event. We will have to change venues and format to fit the fleets requirements but this is a good challenge to have. We have a really great bunch of paddlers following the circuit and we will do our utmost to meet their expectations so we can grow these events further.”
In the Ladies fleet Joanne Hamilton Vale led the fleet in the first race to assert her dominance and bid for the Championship title. Pursuing Jo was some very close racing between Sophie Weguelin, Kerry Baker and Amy Fisher and this battle would set the scene for the day to decide the Womens podium. Unfortunately Jo’s Championship ended there when jet lag and the aftermath of a parasite picked up during her Yukon river challenge took its toll and Jo was found fast asleep in the registration area.
This left the door wide open for the Championships and when young Izzy Adcock secured second in the sprints behind Kerry Baker it became clear that all three positions on the podium would be decided on the last race. Kerry Baker led the race in to secure the Championship with Sophie Weguelin in second, taking the next step on the overall podium. A strong final race from Flora Stewart, placing third pulled her in to contention along with Jen Manning but Amy Fisher (Yes another of the clearly talented Fisher family) came in 8th and had done enough with her first two results of the day to hang on to the third spot on the overall podium.
A special mention must go to two familiar faces on the Womens N1SCO scene, Jo Pye and Sally Newman. Both are paddling in the Veteran Category but with each event are posting stronger performances. Sally never dropped from the top 10 securing 8th overall in a seriously tough top 10. Jo Pye was 14th overall whilst carrying a did not finish in the sprint race from missing the finishing gate which must have been very frustrating when a solid result would have seen a clear top 10 finish with a 6th and 7th as her other race results for the day.
In the Juniors, Blue Ewer and Izzy Adcock who although only 14 years old and firmly in the Junior division, decided to show their considerable skills to take on their seniors and race in the adult fleets instead. It is clear to see their talent with Izzy securing 6th overall in the Womens and Blue 9th overall in the mens. For the Junior fleet itself, shortened courses were used and competitors as young as eight years old showed their grit to take on over 20 knot head winds to complete the full race schedule including their first downwinder as a last race to the cheering of the other 100 competitors.
Top position was traded during the day between Storm Ewer and Amy Freeman but in the end, the speed of Storms turns gave her the edge to take top spot overall with Amy 2nd. Younger performers Nick Perks and Harriet Chubb battled hard all day proving that sheer determination always triumphs with Harriet taking third spot on the girls podium and Nick winning the boys.
A key focus of N1SCO events has been to encourage new comers to racing and there were no shortage of these new racers at the Nationals with 29 of the paddlers never having raced before. Full credit must go to Amy Fisher for securing a 3rd on the Overall podium in only her first race (What are they feeding these Fishers?). In the Mens, watersports enthusiast Toby Foster posted strong performances throughout the day to narrowly miss the top 10 in 11th place for his first SUP race.
Throughout the season, N1SCO has seen competitors of all ages from under 10’s to over 60’s. As numbers have increased racing is becoming close in all categories with Masters and Veterans vying to age category podiums at each event.
The day was capped of with a social meal at the event venue where competitors could compare war stories from the days action and many new friends were made.
The fleet of paddlers are now being consulted with a survey requesting information on how they would like the racing to look for coming events now that there are 100+ paddlers attending. It has become key to N1SCO events that they are rider led and in the coming weeks, the paddles will speak and the racing format moving forward will be announced so watch out for news.