The Rivette QUESTars Adventure Race Series

South Downs Adventure Race


Race Report

With virtually no rain for a month before the 2017 South Downs adventure race, ground conditions were always going to be firm and fast-going. A few showers the day before did little to soften the ground; they only helped to bind any loose dust and dirt on the surface together, giving a bit more traction on some of the trails.

The sky was thickly covered with clouds as participants gathered under the big yellow start arch and punched the control to start the timer on their scoring device. With the clock ticking and the checkpoint values & descriptions sheet collected, it was a race to cross the dummy checkpoints off the map and adjust any pre-planned routes accordingly.

Those kayaking first headed off on bikes to the kayak transition which was situated on the far side of the River Adur estuary. It was only 6 km away from the start as the crow flies but many covered two or three times this distance in order to visit several of the mountain bike checkpoints on the way. The stretch of water was very scenic with participants paddling past several notable landmarks along the way. These included the old wooden Shoreham toll bridge which dates back to 1782 – one of the last of its kind anywhere in the world – and the 50 m high ornate chapel at Lancing College which began being built in 1868 and is perched on high ground overlooking the River Adur.

At just under 5 km the round trip to visit all the kayak checkpoints was not a particularly long paddle for the sixty minutes that teams had available to them. However, these numbers do not tell the whole story. The Masters kayaking in the first timeslot did not have it so easy on the water; paddling against the flow of the river to visit the kayak checkpoints only to find that they had to get out of their kayaks to reach several of the controls which had been left high and dry on the muddy side of the channel by the five-metre-high tide. And as if that wasn’t enough, they then had to do battle against the incoming tide on their return to the kayak transition.

As the tide came in so it counteracted the flow of the river making the paddling (in one direction at least) somewhat easier for the subsequent timeslots, with ideal conditions reserved for the Novices on the water around high tide at 13:40. Despite the somewhat challenging conditions, especially early on, twenty-seven teams visited all the kayak checkpoints to score the maximum 180 pts for the kayaking. Fastest, by some way, were the French Novice men’s team ZybAlligator whose kayak time of 41 mins 09 secs was more than 5 minutes quicker than anyone else, with the next best time of 46 mins 32 secs set by Masters Luke Fulton & Georges Maccario.

Heading north from the kayak transition there was 5 km of fast flat cycling along the Downs Link – a cycle route which follows a disused railway line along the east side of the River Adur – to reach the South Downs Way. From there it was up onto the South Downs where the rest of the mountain bike checkpoints were situated.

The South Downs Way formed an undulating high-level route over the tops that linked together the northernmost bike checkpoints, but participants had to decide whether to break this obvious route to visit the strategically placed checkpoints in the middle of the map. This split opinion – even amongst the top teams – with some choosing to approach these checkpoints from the north by dropping down off the South Downs Way whilst others decided they were best reached from the south by ascending to them from the foot of the Downs.

450 pts were available for the mountain biking in total and seven teams scored this by cycling a minimum of 46 km with 850 m of ascent to visit all the bike checkpoints, with Tom Davies the fastest to do so in just under 2 hrs 45 mins.

The clouds started to break up throughout the morning and by early afternoon there was a lot of sun about. This would have made it quite warm for those who left the Trail Run to last were it not for the wind which took the edge off the temperature a bit especially on the exposed high ground. It was back up onto the Downs for the Trail Run, where participants could enjoy the far-reaching views north over the Weald basin and south along the coast and out to sea.

Anyone wanting to clear the Trail Run had to descend the steep scarp slope on the far side of the Downs to reach the furthest checkpoints before climbing back up to return. The baked hard uneven muddy ground, coupled with the angle of the slope made this some of the toughest terrain to cover. This does not appear to have slowed Tom Davies down though. He was one of only three people to visit all the Trail Run checkpoints, covering the 24+ km with over 650 m of ascent in 2 hrs 25 mins.

And so, it was no surprise at the prize giving when Tom Davies (Endurancelife) was announced as the overall race winner, for he cleared the course and visited every single run, bike and kayak checkpoint to score the maximum 1000 pts in 5 hrs 55 mins. Second overall was veteran Magnus Mill with 905 pts whilst fellow veteran Rob Smart scored 880 pts to take third place. James Bennett & Scott Heys ended the race with 855 pts which saw them crowned as the top men’s team (and fourth overall), whilst the top ladies score of 835 pts was set by Katherine Bond & Emma Johnson who finished in fifth place overall - a very good result indeed. Helen & Daniel Murphy won the mixed class with 775 pts.

The winners of the 5-hour Novice race were the ladies team of Rachel MacKinney, Rebecca Westall & Anna Skelton whose impressive score of 670 pts was 15 pts more than the 655 pts scored by the top novice men’s team ZybAlligator (Abel Aibout-Sibille, Florian Guillebeaud, Adrien Metay, William Bateman). Michael Downey was the top novice veteran with 645 pts whilst 625 pts scored by Andrew Van Kints & Mara Verduin saw them finish top of the novice mixed class. Meanwhile the Duo race (run and bike only) was won by Gavin Fisher with a score of 685 pts.

Congratulations to all the aforementioned class winners who took home prizes thanks to the kind support from our event partners Likeys, Clif Bar, Amphibia, MuchBetterAdventures, Stique & MapDec. And well done to everyone who took part and completed their own personal challenge - see the full race results

The next race in the 2017 Questars Adventure Race Series takes place on Saturday 1 July in the Chilterns. Like all Questars adventure races, it is suitable for both beginners and experienced teams of 1, 2, 3 or 4 people. Places are going fast - enter online now before it sells out!


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