Sunday, December 4, 2016

SUP Race Report: CGT Superlap Series #1

Race: Race #1 in the CGT Winter Time Trial series, aka the "Superlap Series" because of a new race format.

Date it happened: 4 December 2016.

Host: CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, which you can become a groupie of by joining the CGT Tribe facebook page.

Location: Riverside Park on the Imperial River in downtown Bonita Springs, Florida.

Distance: Approximately 5.34 km / 3.3 miles. The course goes downriver, around a buoy, back upriver to the start, then downriver and back a second time. There's a twist, though: There are two possible turn-around buoys downriver; one further and one closer. You have to do the long route for one lap and the short route for the other lap. It's your choice if you want to do the long or the short lap first, so interesting strategies come into play in competition.

Conditions: It was a beautiful, blue sky day with typical warm Florida fall weather. The river level was low and the tide ebbing, with the current at about 0.75 kph, based on analysis with my paddling in current calculator. There was a moderate wind from the East that added to the challenge of paddling upriver.

Participants: We had 16 wonderful people, including most of the race team regulars. Coach Mark Athanacio couldn't make it because he's in Miami renewing his cross-fit trainer certification, but his girlfriend Jen paddled one of his cool custom Hovie SUPs- 12'6x22 -and tested out her new Apple Smart-Watch. "Superman" Robert Norman drove down from Inverness and raced his 14x21 custom MHL board. Most of us were racing as fast as we could, but there were several people this time who took a more relaxed approach and paddled the course with their dogs onboard. After the race it seemed like there were more dogs than people at the buffet in the shop. I like dogs, so I thought that was cool.

Gear: I used a 14x23 Riviera RP raceboard with a Riviera Bump 8.0 paddle, and a Fins Unlimited 6" Keel fin.

Results: I had the fastest time in the 14' sup class, with 34:18, followed by Robert Norman in 36:20. Third 14' man was Murray Hunkin with 37:11. Matt Kearney was the first 12'6 paddler, getting 37:46 on his 24" wide Hovie Comet ZXC. The top three women (all on 12'6 boards) were Damien Lin in 43:19, Jen Hayes in 44:53, and Donna Catron in 46:31. Full results will be posted on the CGT Time Trials page.

Here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to log in to Strava to see the details.

Play by play: I started in the first group, with Murray Hunkin, Devin Turetzkin, and Robert Norman. I was in the faster-flowing middle of the river, which helped me nose ahead in the initial sprint and find an open path in undisturbed water. Meanwhile the other guys had to struggle with each others' wakes as we formed a draft train. Though I was confident that I could eventually tire out and drop Murray and Devin (those guys are 14 years older than me and not as ultra fit as Mark Athanacio), I was worried that Robert (14 years younger than me and very fit) might be able to stay in my draft indefinitely and then pass me later when I got tired. Fortunately for me / unfortunately for Robert, his start put him in 4th position in the draft train. So when Devin and Murray couldn't stay on my tail, Robert got dropped, too. I knew I wasn't totally out of the woods, though. I'd still have to maintain a fast pace to hold the initial lead.

On the first downriver leg I opted to go to the more distant buoy, to get my long lap over with first. Of our starting group, only Murray chose to do the short lap first. At the turn I was nervous and almost fell, but was reassured to see that I had a safe gap on Robert and Devin. The wind and current were annoying on the upriver leg, but I tried to paddle especially hard in the worst patches to get through them quicker. Back at the start/finish line I rounded the halfway buoy without incident, though I think I took it wider than necessary. Devin's girlfriend Larissa took a lot of good pictures of people rounding the buoy.

Me on the 14x23 Riviera RP.

Robert Norman on the 14x21 MHL custom.

Matt Kearney on a 12'6x24 Hovie Comet ZXC.

Justin DiGiorgio on 14x24 Hovie Comet GT.

Bryan Herrick on 14x23.75 Riviera RP custom.

On the second, shorter lap I was feeling pretty tired but tried to think fast, peppy thoughts to continue paddling effectively. I wasn't wearing my heartrate monitor, which died the other day, so I gauged my effort level just by how I felt. A couple hundred meters from the end I picked up the pace to make sure I used up all my remaining energy. It sure felt good to cross the line and be done. Then it was fun watching everybody finish and hanging out on the water. I can't wait for the next race two weeks from now. :)

What else is new: CGT recently became a Starboard dealer (Starboard is the #1 sup and windsurf board brand in the world), and they're getting their first shipment of race boards in early January. They will keep selling Riviera boards, which is good because I am a Riviera brand ambassador and plan to stick with them for the foreseeable future. As far as I can tell the Riviera boards are at least as fast, and cheaper.

Later this winter Robert Norman is going to try to break the world record for the longest distance sup paddled in 24 hours. The current record is held by Seychelle Hattingh, who set it earlier this year at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, FL. Robert is going to make his attempt at the same park, which is a big artificial lake used for rowing competitions and such. Whereas Seychelle set her record on a 14' Mistral sup, Robert is going to use an unlimited length sup; a 17'6x23 Starboard Sprint. The very long board should make it a little easier to maintain a high average pace for a long time, but I still think it will be very difficult for Robert to beat Seychelle's incredible record of 177 km. It will be neat to see him try, though.

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