The Icon Classic is Britain’s best known downwind surf ski race and fast getting a reputation as a great downwind SUP event too. Now in its 8th Year, it has become a key date in the GB Ocean Ski and SUP racing Calendars.
Over the past seven years, the race has grown in reputation, attracting top European ski paddlers from Spain, Portugal and France. Andre Santos (Nelo), Luis Ventura Verino (Elio), Yannick Laousse, Angie Mouden and Joep van Bakel are just to mention a few.
This event also attracts some of the UK’s finest downwind SUP paddlers. Such as defending champions Ollie Shilston and Marie Buchanan. Now in it’s 3rd year, the ‘open class’ SUP race sports a field of the UK’s top 30 downwind racers. The 11km course that starts at Lee Bay proves to be a great attraction for those SUP paddlers who want to test their ocean skills. For more information, take a look at the Downwind SUP UK & Ireland FB page.
The Classic course doesn’t come without its challenges. Morte-Point (French for Death Point) didn’t get its name without good reason! This headland has a dark history of ship wrecking on its sharp jagged rocks and should only be navigated at certain times of the tide. (For a full flavour of what used to happen on Morte-Point, Google the history of Mortehoe village and you will find it has a very colourful past and is well known for wrecking the supply ships heading for Bristol.)
From low to mid tide you can see a line of sharp rocks that extend out another mile from the headland. This is one of the contributory factors that make Mortepoint point extremely dangerous if navigated at the wrong time. This stretch of water also has the second fastest and highest tidal flow in the world and can regularly reach a height of 10m. As you can imagine, that amount of water moving over the headland rocks creates serious swirls of water and is likened to a washing machine! Not many paddlers have experienced those type of conditions before. Even without paddling you can be moving at 12 knots! That is why the Classic race only ever starts 90 minutes before high tide and never earlier! By then the rocks are well covered and the tide has passed its fastest surge which is during the second third of the tidal flow.
After navigating Morte-Point, the course follows a fairly straight line up the coast. However, if you get too close to the remaining headlands you can still experience some interesting water! As well as the challenges of Mortepoint, the race start line can throw up a descent size swell on any day. So there are a few challenges to deal with as part of the race organisation, any one of which could result in postponement, cancellation or moving the event. On the plus side, when conditions are good this race is a real cracker!
Event safety cover is organised by Saunton Sands Surf Life Saving Club who provide 5 crewed IRB’s (inshore rescue boats), 3 headland spotters and 4 drivers that make a 40 mile round trip with trailers for IRB support.
In all, a minimum of 17 people volunteer their time to ensure the highest standards of safety cover. If this event was run on a commercial basis it wouldn’t be viable. All profits from the event go to Saunton Sands Surf Life Saving Club.
In addition to the IRB safety cover, there is also a 35-foot RIB anchored at the half way point and is fondly known to the regular competitors as the ‘Mother Ship’. However, it’s official name is ‘Lundy Explorer’ and is owned by Ilfracombe Sea Safari – check out their website for an exhilarating ride of your life!!
Keep an eye out on Icon Sports FB page for 2017 updates. See you on the start line!!!!!!!