Week 2 Of The Euro Tour: Plenty Of Big Names Battling From From St. Ives To St. Maxime
It’s Week 2 of the Euro Tour, with a split round set to showcase events in both France and the UK this weekend.
Cornwall in the south of England will host the inaugural St’Ives Bay Celtic Cup, while over on the French Riviera we’ve got St. Maxime’s long-running SUP Race Cup. Between these two races, we’ll see a dozen or more of the world’s best paddlers match up against a bevvy of local chargers.
After the highs of the Port Adriano SUP Race, where Travis Grant and Sonni Honscheid won a challenging contest (and where we got treated to some awesome mid-week of adventures courtesy of our generous hosts) it’s time to move on to the next challenge.
Right now I’m on a plane above the Mediterranean with Fernando Stalla and Connor Baxter. In a couple of hours we’ll land in the south of England, rendezvous with Quickblade’s Jim Terrell, then drive down to the south western tip of the country.
Our destination: The postcard-perfect village of St. Ives and neighbouring Carbis Bay, host venue fo the St’Ives Bay Celtic Cup.
The Celtic Cup is the only “new” event on the 2015 Euro Tour, so we’re not entirely sure what to expect. However looking at the images of the town, and hearing that we could be in for a downwinder on Saturday, I’m feeling confident we’re set for another big weekend of fun and adventure.
There will be two races, with a distance race on Saturday and a Jamie Mitchell style Survivor Race on Sunday. The main event is the distance race though, with all the points (and prize money) up for grabs on Saturday. Sunday is more of a fun race with nothing serious on the line, which means the apple cider will be flowing freely on Saturday night…
But St. Ives is just one half of the Week 2 equation and, somewhat coincidentally, the other race this weekend is in another holy town: St. Maxime in the south of France.
The SUP Race Cup, dating back to 2010, is quite possibly the longest-running stand up paddle race in Europe. And this year, partly thanks to its link up with the Euro Tour, it looks set to rekindle the same elite level of competition that invaded the French Riviera in the famous Summer of 2013.
The SUP Race Cup involves two races in one weekend: A distance race and a “Beach Race” (French for BOP-style course race). So unlike St. Ives and Port Adriano, where all the points (and all the prize money) were on one big race, St. Maxime will see paddlers battling all weekend for their spot on the Euro Tour Leaderboard.
When the Euro Tour organisers first floated the idea of a “split round” I was rather skeptical. I assumed it would be better to keep the paddlers bunched up into a tight, elite group, maximising the level of competition each week.
But I was missing the point of the Euro Tour.
The Euro Tour isn’t only about the pros; it’s just as much about the amateurs, the first timers, the kids, and the local paddling communities that host these events. Without wanting to get too spacey, this is the soul of the Euro Tour. It’s about supporting the sport and and helping to grow the European stand up paddling community in general.
Sure, one of the great things about the Euro Tour is the way it attracts big names from abroad to race against the stars of Europe. But it goes a long way beyond that. The fun and adventure of traveling alongside the intensity and excitement of competition. It’s about the spirit of paddling.
So back to this split round thing: This weekend we’ll have about a third of the elite field in the UK, with the rest hitting the south of France for the SUP Race Cup.
In the UK (St. Ives) look for Connor Baxter to go one better than he did in Mallorca. The Starboard super star will be up against the likes of Fernando Stalla, surprise packet from Week 1 Paolo Marconi, and the stars of the UK paddling scene including Ollie Shilston, Ryan James, Pete Holliday, Aaron Rowe and plenty of other dark horses. However I highly doubt anyone can match the world number one.
Connor’s team mate Fiona Wylde is also in the UK this week. The world number four will be looking for a win to start her Euro Tour campaign, before she heads off to the Lost Mills next week to battle her fellow Top 10 world ranked women.
The level of competition will be a notch higher over in France, with Travis Grant looking to go back-to-back against Titouan Puyo, Eric Terrien, Jake Jensen, Bicho Jimenez, Leo Nika, Arthur Daniel, Arthur Arutkin and half a dozen other top-ranked guys at the SUP Race Cup. Look for Sonni Honscheid to go back-to-back in the women’s, though also look for paddlers such as ISA medalist Celine Guesdon to give her a good push.
The Euro Tour Leaderboard follows a similar model to the SUP Racer World Rankings, where the higher the level of competition (i.e. the harder a race is to win), the more points you get for winning. That means St. Maxime will offer more points than St. Ives, though it’ll also be harder to earn those points. No matter what happens though, look for some interesting changes to the Leaderboard by Sunday evening.
Should be a great weekend and, if Mallorca was any guide, there will be just as much fun off the water as there is on it.
We’ll keep you posted with how it all goes.