Porthtowan Win Gold at Westward Ho

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Round Four of the UK Surfboat Summer Series took place at Westward Ho! on Saturday 15 September, less than a week after a group of Olympians had tried their hands at surf boat racing following the Cornish Rowing Challenge.

When the call went out that Porthtowan Blue Betty were a rower short for the event, Louisa Reeve – who raced in the Women’s Eight at Eton Dorney – decided to take a detour on her way home to have a go.

It was the first time the Series had raced at the venue and, as with all steps into the unknown, there was some concern over what the beach might hold in store. There was much relief then, upon arrival, to see the swell was at a completely manageable size.

“Chest height,” said starter Louise Gapp. “Head high on the sets.”

There was the usual delay while the buoys were laid and the course put out. In that time the tide turned and started to push. As it did, the surf picked up. Really picked up.

The Ladies went first. League leaders and UK Open Champions, Porthtowan Black & Blue (BB), were still smarting from their recent defeat at the European Championships to near-neighbours Perranporth Sirens. The Sirens knew if they could repeat that result they still had a chance of overhauling BB at the final event of the season in Bournemouth. The Ladies raced around the course without incident, BB taking first place ahead of the Sirens.

In the Mens’ event Porthtowan Blue Bali appeared to be strolling towards another title. As the boats turned the buoys, however, the surf gods decided to liven things up. A huge set rolled in causing Perranporth’s Tridents to roll as they tried to surf it in while Llantwit and Blue Betty collided, the Porthtowan boat suffering damage that put it out of commission for the rest of the day.

After the carnage was cleared away, Louisa found herself on the starting line for Round Two. Her crew took several waves over the boat but successfully completed the course. The Sirens won the heat and did the same again in Round Three to add real spice to the final.

In the last two rounds of the Mens, both Newport and Croyde suffered disqualifications after rolling as the RNLI safety cover was kept busy. Blue Bali won both heats and appeared completely at ease in the testing conditions.

The outcome of the Ladies season turned on the final. If the Sirens won, the race would go to the final event at Bournemouth; if BB won then, barring a catastrophe, the title was theirs.

The crews reached the turn together, but BB found the decisive wave home. Porthtowan’s day was made complete when Blue Bali romped home in the Mens’ final.

“That was great fun,” said Louisa, before showing a flash of her competitive streak. “As the men rolled three times and the women didn’t go over once, I guess that just proves we row better than them!”

Find out more about the Surfboat Summer Series at www.uksrl.co.uk.

Andy Cox

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