Questars Summer Series Race 2 - New Forest

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New Forest Fun with Questars

Rob Howard / 01.05.2024See All Event Posts Follow Event
Racing through the New Forest with Questars
Racing through the New Forest with Questars / © Rob Howard

There was a bumper entry for the second Questars Summer Series race of the year, held in the New Forest and based at Burgate School at Fordingbridge. Every parking space was taken and the sports hall was bustling with activity before and after the race.

There wasn’t any sign of Summer weather yet (barely of Spring), but the race did manage to find a mostly dry day between the torrential downpours the night before the race, and the night after!  The rivers and streams were flowing fast and overflowing in places, ditches were full, and there was plenty of mud on the course.

The recent rain also led to some last-minute course adjustments with two checkpoints removed from the wettest part of the course and relocated elsewhere giving racers the joy of double checkpoints (and additional scores!) at two locations.

Fordingbridge sits on the River Avon and the kayaking stage was on the river just to the south of the town, which both runners and riders had to pass through.  The run checkpoints were set either side of the valley to the south, with the majority in the low hills to the East and a couple to west, reached by running through the town.

Checkpoint 29 was on a small bridge on the Sweetford Water Meadows in the midst of the houses to the west and the small stream there was hitting the top of the bridge and swelling the pools in the meadows.  Runners approached this checkpoint from every direction as there were endless route choices on the roads, footpaths and bridleways in the area.

The heathlands of the western commons above Godshill and Hungerford had some drier paths to follow (but step off them and you might sink), and this was typical New Forest open heath with the gorse in bloom and cattle, horses and deer roaming freely.

The cycle checkpoints were mostly to the Northwest in the hilly Whitsbury and Rockbourne parishes in the far northern part of the New Forest National Park.  There were plenty of short steep climbs here and good route choice saved on energy and effort.

Around Whitsbury the bridleways were in amongst horse gallops and the Whitsbury Stud had laid thick wood chip on one bridleway ... making it better for horses, but really hard to cycle over!  The rape seed fields were in bloom here, and combined with the gorse on the heaths it was a very yellow landscape to race through.

The river too was yellow for a short stretch!  The paddle stage for this race was restricted to a small area below the Sports and Recreation Ground, due to the swollen river and fast flow.  Checkpoints could be visited twice and with teams going back and forth there were bright yellow and orange sit-on-tops all over the river!  The trip downstream was swift in the mid-river current, but it was really hard work going back up-stream, even tucked into the bank.

It wasn’t the usual Questars kayak stage, and at the prize giving Joe Selby did thank everyone for sticking with it.

There was an audible gasp when it was announced the Masters Trio Solo winner, Tom Davies, had cleared the course. That rarely happens on a Joe Selby course. Tom also recorded what must be the highest score ever at 1014 as he claimed 14 bonus points under the new scoring system by being 14 minutes early back!

There were only 3 out of 25 male solos with penalties, and the rest had bonuses, while in the Masters Trio Female solo category every racer had bonus points as none were late back. Incentives work!

The female solo winner was Dutch racer Bonnie van Wilgenburg with a score of 839, finishing 14 points ahead of Winter Series winner Helen Chapman. Van Wilgenburg didn’t get the best score in category on the bike, run or the paddle, but outscored Chapman on the bike ride by enough to clinch the win. This was her first taste of adventure racing though she has raced in endurance races all over the world, including Xterra, Swimrun and Xtri, and is an elite triathlete and GB trail runner.  Her map reading and navigation must be pretty good too!

The top scoring Trio team were Nick Gracie and Katherina Pedersen, whose score was only beaten by the top 3 solos.

Another standout performance was from David Salter who finished second in a very competitive Open Vets category for his first podium. With the Open and Female Vets podiums made up of 50 and 60-year-olds it shows the updated Vets scoring system is leading to some very competitive racing amongst the more experienced racers.

The prize giving was extended at this race as it included the Royal Artillery Adventure Racing Championship.  Organiser Dan Gallagher said, “We have 27 teams, which is the highest turn out for some time and there’s an age range of 20 to 63, and all ranks from Gunner to Lt. Colonel.” 

It’s not all about the top places of course; every racer has their own goals and adventures, that’s the beauty of the Questars format.  One happy racer was Matthew Saunders who said, “I got all of the run checkpoints, which is a first, got back early, and am usually late, and recorded my best score, so that’s 3 wins!”  He started racing after seeing Eco-Challenge on Amazon Prime during lockdown and is building up to the 40 hour non-stop ITERA-Lite race in Wales in July.

Feeling a bit less happy and slightly confused was Mark Lyle who put up an impressive score of 605 points in the Open Duo category only to get 360 penalties for being an hour and 11 minutes late!  He hadn’t realised he was out for more than 6 hours on the 5 hour course after losing his watch during the race, and losing track of time.

Vernon Hill, aged 15, was taking on the Trio Novice course in his first race.  The Army Cadet said he’d enjoyed the race though he was over an hour late as well and said, “I got a bit lost on the bike ride and found the running hard as I’m not much of a runner.”  He was using a regular map case while on his bike, as many first time racers do ... then they get a map board.

Steve Burnham and Darren Joint, racing as ‘Lufbra Old Boys’ were also first timers, and they had a very impressive result, finishing 5th in the Trio Masters team category with 760 points (after 40 penalties). 

Steve said, “Darren is a Triathlete and he got me into it, but we are both regular outdoor athletes and thought it was a fantastic race. You have to have endurance and strategic thinking, plus some nav skills. It really ticks all the boxes for us and we’ve signed up for the next one already!”

The full results from the New Forest race, and information about the remaining races in the series, are available on

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