This weekend we had the second 'Bike and Sail' event at Slipper, and given its success since being introduced to our programme last year I thought I'd write up a short report in case it is of interest for other clubs. The format of the event is captured in its title. In the morning, there is a 3 hour mountain bike orienteering race (with a 2 hour option), followed by a race in Chichester Harbour in the afternoon. The places for each event are combined and the lowest points win.
The mountain bike race started at 0900 (which kept some of the younger whippets at bay, because they were still in bed), and encompassed the Kingley Vale and Telegraph Hill areas. The aim of the event is to navigate your way between a series of checkpoints and collect as many points as you can in the specified time period. Armed with your map, your bike and your brain, it is up to you to decide which route you take. If you run over the 3 hour time limit, you are heavily penalised for each minute you are late.
The Slipper Bike and Sail map
None of us are mountain bike racers, we just enjoy a few rides a week, and the event is always a learning process. Key lessons from this year :
- Strategy is important. The checkpoints that are worth the most points are the furthest away - do you hoover up the smaller checkpoints, or go for the valuable outliers? Terrain plays a part here, some of the outliers are easy to get to on dry tracks, but an absolute pig when wet and muddy.
- Determining an outline route before you start is important. The five minutes invested in sketching out an optimal route saves much decision making later in the race.
- Continual checks on navigation are essential. My biking partner, Mike, and I thought we had struck gold when we chanced upon a large peloton of road bikes going in our direction, we latched onto the back and furiously pedaled our little 1x10s to keep attached. Trouble was that we ended up going 5km in the wrong direction (but very fast).
- Much easier to get height on roads than tracks. So a route that gets 80% of climbing done on tarmac or fireroads is going to be quick.
- Reading a map whilst cycling is not a good idea, something that the Bapty/Cave team found to their cost. Falling off whilst reading a map is not ideal, especially whilst taking out your teammate at the same time (they were both OK though, and no doubt looking forward to the 'Bent Pintle' trophy later this year).
Mike and I had a good race, until I fell off going downhill after our final checkpoint- a bramble got caught round my pedal and unsettled the bike, I couldn't correct it and ended up taking a tumble at 46 km/h (isn't Strava great? We can even analyse our crashes). Landed head first on a melon sized rock, followed by rest of body. I was fine aside from some bruises and scratches, but my helmet didn't survive.
So the biggest lesson for me from the day :
- Always wear a helmet. I see lots of people biking on roads and trails without helmets, it is just madness - if I hadn't been wearing a helmet this would have been very serious. There is an argument that says ride slower, but there is no way to completely derisk sport, so always wear a helmet. I recognise this probably sounds a bit evangelical, but I certainly saw the light after coming through the crash unscathed.
Anyway, Mike and I picked up 175/200 points, cycling 56km and climbing 775m in the 3 hours. We ended up in joint first place for the ride with Andy Gould, who had been on a two week mountain biking holiday in the Lake District, specifically to train for this event, and had also bought a brand new bike. So we were pleased with our result.
The wind kicked in for the race in the afternoon, with 30 or so boats on the startline. The first mark was a windward rounding to starboard, a relatively short distance from the start. Claire and I got caught in the ensuring melee at the mark, and were well down once we had finished turns. But all was not lost, as Andy had also had an interesting rounding, and had to do a single turn, not a particularly quick manoeuvre in his Musto Skiff. So we dug in and picked off boats one by one, finally managing to squeeze by Phil Poyner in his 200 on the final beat, and so winning the race and event (another lesson - never ever give up, even when all seems lost).
A huge amount of organisation goes into an event of this nature. The orienteering course needs to be designed, set up, and then retrieved after the event. The sailing is akin to a regatta with immediate results, a tea and prize giving. There are helpers and rescue teams for the orienteering event, and a good curry afterwards! So many thanks to Claire, Emma and Noel (and the race team) for giving up their time to make it happen. It is a fantastic event that really captures the spirit of our Sailing Club, and is a now a highlight of our Club calendar.
The prestigious Bike and Sail trophy
Now I need to work out how to stop autocorrect turning 'Bike and Sail' into 'Nike Sale'. Clearly they don't have sailors in mind.