Questars Series Race 2 - Chilterns

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Questars 2 – Starring the Chiltern Hills

Rob Howard / 18.05.2023See All Event Posts Follow Event
Descending Ivinghoe Beacon
Descending Ivinghoe Beacon / © Rob Howard

The second race of the 2023 Questars series had a new venue this year at the Town Farm campsite at the foot of the Chiltern Hills.  The big yellow Questars start and finish arch was prominent on the high field alongside the farm, which has a panoramic view out over the Vale of Aylesbury.

It wasn’t quite as prominent as the huge film set down in the vale, built for the new Ariana Grande film based on the Wicked stage show and the Wizard of Oz characters.  That has a yellow brick road running through it, but the Questars racers wouldn’t have any road to follow in their adventure between leaving and returning to their yellow arch.  They would have to find their own way with heart and courage and definitely need to use their brain!

In the briefing Race Director Joe Selby told everyone they wouldn’t be going into the flat lands of the vale, just into the Chiltern Hills.  He promised them an adventure, lots of mud underfoot and plenty of climbing.  The Chilterns may be low, but there are lots of short, steep climbs.

As usual, racers had a fixed time slot for their hour of kayaking and had to work out their route around that, factoring in that the kayak start/finish was some distance from the race HQ.  This was on the Grand Union Canal just north of the Cowroast Marina.  There was a single checkpoint near the marina and 5 others, closely spaced further north.  It was a tranquil paddle through canal banks full of early summer greenery and there wasn’t too much boat traffic.

The run checkpoints were scattered along the escarpment, with some in the fringes of the Ashridge estate woods and the most northerly was set on the iconic Ivinghoe Beacon, where racers could look down on the yellow arch and see the yellow brick road beyond it!

The biking checkpoints reached further East and again some of these were in the estate, allowing routes past the impressive Ashridge College.  (This was considered as a location for a major movie as well and nearly served as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films.)   On an overcast and chilly day for mid-march, the woods were gloomy but brightened by carpets of bluebells, and the paths in places were VERY muddy after recent heavy rains.

Given the choice of how to reach the kayak start the majority chose to set off on foot, preferring to run before getting wet and cramped in the sit-on-tops.  There didn’t seem to be a lot of consensus on route choice, and everyone followed their own road and made their own adventure!  Just as wizard Joe Selby wanted.

His wicked plans to put on a course which was just about too difficult to be cleared were thwarted by solo racer Campbell Walsh who returned with all checkpoints claimed and just over 3 minutes of his 6 hour time limit left.  He’s a former series winner (2017) and hasn’t raced Questars since 2019 as he’s been living in New Zealand.   Clearly the MTBO and orienteering there has kept him in top form.  

“I gambled,” he said, “and took on a fast and hard run before the kayak and it worked out for me.  I wasn’t so sure about the bike route and felt I was going further then I needed to, but I couldn’t see a better way!”

He added, “Unfortunately, I don’t think I can make any of the other races this year.”  It will give someone else a chance!

Tom Hards took second in the Masters solo ahead of Dan Thorby, who scored more points but was almost 5 minutes late back and had 25 penalties.  He wasn’t too happy with his route choice, but said, “I liked the course. It was tough and there was no neat, clear route. I think it was tougher than the first race in Pewsey.”

Julie Banton was the only Trio Masters Female solo racer and she scored 660 points ... and won!

In 20th and 21st place in the solo category were two of Questars most experienced veteran racers, Lyndon Sutton and Kelly Lehmann. 

Lehmann told me, “I’ve lost count but must have done more than 25 races.  I enjoy them because you are out for a long time, and it’s better to be doing something than sitting at home!  I do triathlons as well, but then everyone is about three times as fast as me on each discipline and I’m way behind.  In these races I can go my own pace and have a good day out.”  He added, “I’m training for a marathon in July so running is my priority today.”  In the end he only ran to get his 235 points.

At the other end of the experience scale there were lots of novices and juniors racing for the first time.  Impressively Team Impala, who were all first-time racers, won the Trio Novice Team category with 649 points. 

They are a family team with Dad Andrew racing with his sons Ben and Sam (13 & 14), and his cousin Phil.  Andrew said, “We were inspired by the Eco-Challenge Fiji shows on Amazon Video and this was the first opportunity we’ve had to try an adventure race together.”  (Wonder if he knew Joe Selby competed in the race?)

Ben was the team navigator and said, “It went well and we didn’t spend too much time on the run as it was so hilly. It was a good start and we’d like to do it again.”  It was a very good start indeed.

Sam and Ben were just two of the juniors racing and there was a good turnout of family teams with children and at least one team with two fathers and teenage sons racing together for the first time.  All of which bodes well for the future.

The winners were announced and prizes presented in the race marquee before everyone headed home.  The closest result was in the Trio Novice Open Solo, where Rob Suchet and Sam Mitchell both scored 600 points, but Suchet was quickest to finish and took the win. 

The overall result in the Trio Novice class was close too as Ruby’s Rockets (Mark and Sarah Lowden) topped the table with 660 points, just ahead of Team Impala.

In second place in the Trio Novice Open Team category was Team ‘How Hot’s it Son?’ which included Anthony Howitt who had flown over from Canada for the weekend especially to do the race with his brother Adam, and friend Steven!  (Yes, you read that correctly.)

He did the same last year and said it’s a good way to spend some time with his brother and see the countryside, plus Canada doesn’t have any good pubs!  He was in the UK for just 36 hours between flights.  Now that’s dedication to Questars racing!

The next race in the series is in Dorset on June 10th and you can find out all about Questars at

There are also lots of photos from the weekend on the Questars Facebook page at;

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