Off With A Bang At Dunrobin Castle
With a blast from a shotgun ITERA started at 08.30 this morning in front of the baroque turrets of Dunrobin Castle, seat of the Duke of Sutherland. The gun was fired by the castle manager Scott Morrison and before setting the teams off he wished them all well for their amazing journey and said, “It’s ‘the Glorious 12th’ today , start of the grouse shooting season, so I hope this is the only gun you hear on your travels!”
It was a glorious setting in front of the Castle too, which has 189 rooms and is the most northerly in Scotland – it even has its own railway station! Brian Gatens of the NYARA team said, “This has to be the best race start I’ve been to.” (The castle starts are something of an ITERA tradition and the last time the race was in Scotland it began at Stirling Castle.)
Course planner Tom Gibbs lead the teams up the long drive and across the road, before they were allowed to let all those pent up competitive juices loose and race away on a 5k trail into the woods and back down to the coast along a valley of pools and waterfalls within the grounds. Then they ran back along the coast to the foot of castle, where the view of it was even more amazing, before setting off to paddle down the coastline towards Tain and the first checkpoint.
After a dreich day yesterday (look it up) the weather for the start was perfect, calm with high cloud and there was even some sunshine breaking through as the teams sorted out their paddle gear on the grass below the castle.
First back were the South African team, Adventure Life, and soon the grass was covered in gear bags, seats and paddles. There was a handy ramp down onto the beach for the teams to get away on their 20km paddle down the coast, past Dornoch, to reach the Glenmorangie Distillery at Tain. (It was a great sight to see the boats setting off, but there won’t be drone shots on the video ... the drones frighten the castles falcons!)
Tidal conditions were near perfect too with the teams setting off on a rising tide close to high water and they will be grateful for the calm conditions – and for a picture perfect start to the race.