Battle of the Thames is a 16km race starting a Thames Sailing Club, Kingston. Wind was extremely light and we had a forecast of 24 degrees, it was going to be a hot one.
130 paddlers started the race and a plentiful female fleet. It was great to see a lot of paddlers who I have not raced before.
I chose to race my 14’ x 25 Starboard Sprint and use a Black Project weed fin as I would have to paddle close to the bank when paddling against the flow.
My start was 6 minutes after the first start but I decided to get on the water early to check out the stability of the board as the Thames has a lot of water traffic. I felt unstable on the board but no changing now as it was almost time to race.
I was slow off the start, slower than normal, and it took a few hard strokes to get the board moving. Christine Anderson was ahead of me and I knew I had to get the speed up to pass her and not allow her time to get on my tail. The first mark was about 1.5km along the river, I decided to get in the strong flow in the middle of the river to increase the distance between myself and Christine. At the first mark I was about 1 minute ahead but knew I could not rest as I had to increase the lead if I was going to be able to back off slightly at the end of the race. The 2.5km slog against the flow was painful, I really wanted to paddle close to the bank but due to the amount of 12’6 males on 4-5 man draft trains I was forced to paddle against full flow if I wanted to overtake.
By half way through the race I had overtaken most of the male 12’6 fleet and they started 3 minutes prior to my start. It was now time to start reeling in some of the 14’ men. One of the first 14’ men I overtook was Jay Manning, I paddled into the flow to overtake him and was horrified to see he had jumped onto my tail. UK SUP Clubs ruling states drafting only allowed in the same board class and gender. I called out to him to get off my draft but as he was listening to music he could not hear me. After working so hard to get to where I was in the race the last thing I needed was to pull a guy along. The only way to get rid of him was to put a sprint in, it was hard work and took all the energy I had. Finally, I was back paddling on my own. I also found it mentally tough to see the girls in 2nd and 3rd place working together to try and reduce the distance between us. I had to stay strong and keep pushing. 3km before the end of the race I realized I had enough time to have something to eat and a lot to drink before that last push to the finish line.
I finished the race in 1:52:11 and took 1st 14’, 1st female and 18th overall. 2nd place female finished 10 minutes after me so perhaps I should have backed off for the last lap
The heat and the fast pace of this race left me broken.