The Dutch Coast Race is a classic ocean racing event who’s record of sell-out attendance and high calibre of international competitors, stand as testament to a great organisation. This and the accessibility via channel tunnel made the decision to add this race to the 2018 schedule a simple one.
Fresh from our experiences in Ireland last weekend, we set off in the Epic Kayaks UK minibus with a small change to the contingent – swapping Dougal Glaisher for Scooby Lark. We had 14 hours to get to know each other and swap music tastes. We arrived at the campsite to put up our tents in the dark and find a 24hr Chinese takeaway.
We woke early the next morning to meet up with the large community of GB paddlers that had made it across, to have a practice run of the race course in lovely downwind conditions.
There was a powerful shore break at the end of the run and disaster hit for two members of the GB squad. Scooby Lark was knocked in while surfing to the beach and received a serious injury to his hand. At the same time, further along the beach, a defect in Lewis Kirton’s boat was brought to light when his boat folded while surfing into the beach. Although Scooby spent a long time in the water hue managed to remount his ski independently and perform a self rescue. He was taken straight to hospital where he was told the hard news that he would have to be pulled from the race and that he would need a bit more practice!
While Lewis accompanied Scooby to hospital, the rest of the squad attended one of Oscar Chalupsky’s paddle clinics. This was dangerous as some of his ideas were new to us and changing anything the day before a race is a bad idea!
On Saturday (29 Sep 18) morning, we were treated to a lie in, as we were not needed to load boats till 11 o’clock. Lewis was leant a race Surfski by Micky McDonald of Think Kayaks so he could race that day.
After a briefing we climbed aboard coaches for a worryingly long drive. It was all the more concerning because the wind, which was forecast to turn, was currently a headwind. After carrying our boats down to the beach and waiting for some time for the wind to turn, the organisers decided to set the race off anyway.
The start was one continuous line, which with 129 paddlers, was not very controlled, with a big advantage given to those at one end of the line. After running to the sea with our skis we had to wade some distance through the shallows before it was deep enough to mount up. A hectic sprint out to the turn buoy followed and then we turned parallel to the coast and … into the wind!
The following 20km slog was absolutely brutal. Upwind on a great downwind course! There were a lot of times that I wished I was going the other way! It was easy to forget we had the current with us. However, it was still an extreme test of forward paddling ability in swirly conditions, in which Alice excelled.
A short time after crossing the line and stuffing our selves with the wine gums provided we were able to laugh about how tough things had actually been.
Prize giving followed a shower at the campsite, and then it was onto the delicious evening meal and drinks provided by Club Zand, the restaurant next to the water sports centre.
The next morning we decided to skip the fun races in order to get back to the UK. So we settled down for the 14 hour journey back…
Thanks must go to the organisers for making a tough decision with the information they had available and for their impeccable organisation throughout.
Big thank you’ s to Jim and for the support from Epic Kayaks UK for the sponsorship and logistic organisation of the GB Squad and especially to Micky McDonald of Think Kayaks for stepping in with his generous loan of a full race spec Surfski on the morning of the race.
Lewis Kirton: 11th Overall
Francis Huntingford: 27th Overall
Alice Bray: 4th Woman Overall (First U23 female.)