Spithill, ORACLE TEAM USA face up to Devil's Isle Challenge


photo: ORACLE TEAM USA / Javier Salinas
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photo: ORACLE TEAM USA / Javier Salinas
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photo: ORACLE TEAM USA / Javier Salinas
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photo: ORACLE TEAM USA / Javier Salinas
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photo: ORACLE TEAM USA / Javier Salinas
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ORACLE TEAM USA skipper Jimmy Spithill, along with team mates Graeme Spence and Rev Minihane, took on an epic challenge on Saturday - the Devil's Isle SUP Challenge.

The scheduled 40 mile race had to be shortened to 29 miles due to very strong winds, but even at that distance, Spithill called it "one of the toughest things I've ever done."

With extremely limited training, Spithill was the first male across the finish line in the unlimited SUP category, completing the full course solo in an unofficial time of 6 hours 15 minutes. Spence and Minihane teamed up with a late entrant they met on the beach before the start early on Saturday morning to win the SUP relay division.

The Devil's Isle Challenge is held in support of the Plastic Tides organisation, devoted to education about the scourge of plastic in our oceans.

With a forecast of steady 25 knot Southeasterly winds, gusting near 30 knots, organisers shifted to a shorter, slightly more protected course. But it was still a massive physical challenge.

"It was still a very tough course," Spithill said. "Going upwind was so hard. You couldn't stop or rest because you'd lose the bow in the wind...

"You can't think about the finish line. You just take it one little chunk at a time. It's cool having team mates around you as well, with Rev and Graeme out there defending the relay title ORACLE TEAM USA won last year.

"But having not trained properly for it made today very, very tough. It puts you out of your comfort zone taking on a challenge like that. A race like today is really very much a mental challenge. The last two hours I was getting a lot of cramping, but at that point it's just mental. That's what I like about it."

Spithill spent much of the race chasing down Annabel Anderson, the world number one SUP athlete.

"We met during one of the campaigns in New Zealand and we've done a little bit of paddling together. She's just a machine out there. Really impressive to see what someone like that can do."

Anderson was first overall to finish in the SUP class.

"The other cool thing with this race is the support of Plastic Tides. This is a great way to raise awareness," Spithill said.

"The idea is to bring attention to an important subject in an engaging way," says Gordon Middleton, a co-organiser of the event and Plastic Tides. 

"We're trying to raise awareness and create change. We have a plastic free island initiative and this is a great messaging tool.

"Last year we had two ORACLE TEAM USA relay teams and they showed up in a big way. Today, everyone was charging hard, but Jimmy was pretty impressive. It was cool to watch. He lost ground on Annabel early, but he really came on strong at the end."

Middleton and his co-founder in Plastic Tides, Christian Shaw, put all proceeds from the Devil's Isle Challenge to Plastic Tides and SUpR Kids Bermuda, a free summer paddling and education program for Bermuda youth.





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