Exploring the Dorset Coast with Questars
Twelve hours of rain the night before the 2018 Dorset Coast Adventure Race turned the already heavy-going low-lying ground into a wet and muddy quagmire, making it slow going in places, particularly underfoot. Still, looking on the plus side, at least there wasn’t any of the snow that had blanketed the course and created deep drifts just a week earlier; the remnants of which could still be seen behind one or two exposed walls on the high ground.
Participants got a taste of what was to come as they set off from under the start arch, splashing as they made their way on foot across the waterlogged sports field to collect their bikes and exit the venue. With both the trail running and the kayaking taking place from remote transition points out on the course, everyone began on bikes and cycled to one or other of the transition points visiting bike checkpoints on the way.
The bike checkpoints had been positioned so that a good number could be reached from minor roads, and the rest were on trails that stood up relatively well to the wet weather because they either had a firm base of rocks and stones or were on high ground and therefore drained better. The steep climb up onto the Purbeck Hills came as bit of a shock to those who didn’t know the area but the rewards were well worth the effort with spectacular panoramic views, benign conditions and some lovely free-flowing riding along the undulating ridgeline.
And for the 25 teams that made it beyond the ridgeline and out to the furthest checkpoint on Swyre Head, there were stunning views along the coast and out to sea which stretched as far as Portland Bill in the west and the needles on the Isle of Wight to the east. Of these, only 4 teams scored the maximum 450 pts for the mountain biking. They covered over 49 km with 800+ m of ascent to visit all the mountain bike checkpoints, with the race winner doing so in a time of just under 3 hours.
With the trail run checkpoints spread out in all directions around the picturesque village of Corfe Castle and the transition point slap-bang in the middle, it was perhaps difficult to know which checkpoint to visit first. And with the furthest run checkpoints out on a limb, down on the south coast, the top teams had to decide whether it was best to tackle these first and head straight there or pick up some of the checkpoints around Corfe Castle before venturing south.
The trail run course was hilly and included a number of steep flights of steps, but participants didn’t have to go very far to get splendid views over Corfe Castle and the surrounding area. One of the closest checkpoints to the transition point was perched high on the Purbeck Hills from where you could look down on the magnificent remains of the 1000-year-old castle.
Kevin Stephens’ score of 360 pts for the trail run was the highest of the day. He visited all but two of the run checkpoints, covering 22 km with some 550 m of ascent in 2 hrs 45 mins; such were the ground conditions on the day.
With the tough nature of the course it was not surprising that those kayaking at the end of the day didn’t have enough time left to visit all the kayak checkpoints. But it was a different story for those who kayaked first, with 25 teams electing to maximise their time on the water and collect 180 pts by visiting all the kayak checkpoints. Men’s pair Andrew Woodhouse and Dan Milton posted the fastest time of the day, paddling the 5.6 km round trip in 51 mins 15 secs.
Conditions on the River Frome for the kayaking were kind with a relatively small tidal range and the incoming tide offsetting somewhat the flow of the river. This coupled with little to no wind made it perfect for paddling on. What’s more is participants more or less had this usually busy little stretch of water to themselves as most of the yachts were still off the water undergoing their annual winter maintenance.
With the time limit fast approaching, participants made their way back to the event base on bikes, to punch the finish control and stop the clock. Tom Hards won the race with a score of 870 pts, just 15 pts more than the top veteran Kevin Stephens in second place. Andrew Woodhouse & Dan Milton picked up a 25 point penalty for being late back but were just able to hold on to the top spot in the men’s team class with a score of 760 pts. Helen Chapman scored 735 pts to comfortably win the ladies class, and one place behind on 720 pts were the winners of the mixed team class Emma & Richard Gill.
Geoff Kirk & Mike Bailey collected more points than any other novice team but they received a big penalty for being 20 minutes late back which saw them drop to fourth place overall. And so it was Adam Clark & Niall Megaw who won the novice race with a score of 580 points, 25 points ahead of second placed pairing Tom Wallace & Rory Dickenson. Claire & Neil Walker finished first in the novice mixed team class with a total of 470 points, and 450 points was enough for Gabby Ross, Tamsin Sutton, Kate Cornfield & Amy Sergison to take top spot in the novice ladies class. The Duo race is for those who would rather not kayak, and this was won by Sid Hardy with 545 points.
Congratulations to the winners of each class who took home prizes thanks to the kind support from our event partners Likeys, Clif Bar, Amphibia & Stique. And well done to everyone who took part and completed their own challenge; see the full race results.
The next race in the Questars Adventure Race Series takes place on Saturday 19 May 2018 in the Cotswolds. Like all Questars adventure races, it is suitable for all abilities and open to teams of 1, 2, 3 or 4 people. Places are filling up fast so enter online now to secure a place!
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