Elphin Safety Check Means a Course Change
Teams finished their coast to coast ride near Ledmore Junction in a small village hall at Elphin, although there did not seem to be a village, just a hall and a famous bothy. (Look for Elphin bothy on Google and you’ll see lots of photos.)
“It was a good ride,” said Dave Spence of Team Just Turn Up AR, “and we made quick progress mostly on forest tracks. The early sections had a bit of forest bashing, but after that it was good riding all the way across Scotland.” He added, “We want to complete the full course but we know the cut-offs are tight. Still we are an hour up on our plan!” The team are all very experienced racers in the UK and abroad, and include Nicola MacLeod who has been on a winning World Champs team in the past, but has not competed in an expedition race since ITERA Wales in 2014.
The hall was a busy from mid afternoon with a group of teams taking the short course on the ride and arriving ahead of the first full course team, which was SWECO. No short course team can leave transition ahead of a full course team, so they all had to wait until SWECO set off, which in the case of Endurancelife Development team was 90 minutes.
The course they set off on was not that originally planned for the Summer Isles paddle as the wind direction predicted tonight and tomorrow had forced the race to adopt plan B. This meant keeping teams closer to the shore and the coastal side of off-shore islands where possible. The new route is about 2 hours longer and has an extra portage in it, but will be safer for the teams.
Brian Gatens of the NYARA team told me. “We are thinking of taking camping gear and stopping on one of the portages. It would help us get warm and is better than navigating in the dark.”
The cold will be a factor tonight, there is a steady chill breeze and the temperature will be in single figures. Terence Vrugtman of Adventure Life from South Africa was wrapped ready to go and said, “I’m more worried about the cold than the climb up Suilven and don’t feel too ready for this.” (This team are all male, which is why the show as unranked on the timings.)
The vast majority of the teams will scale Suilven in the dark tonight and those who arrived in daylight saw it looming and looking impossibly steep in the distance as they rode in. Teams are now undertaking their second long paddle within 24 hours and will have a tough night ahead of them, including the steep climb on Suilven.