The ABSA Wareham Forest event hosted by South West Coast Sled Dogs was the first ABSA event we had actually managed to compete in, although we had entered previous events and had to withdraw due to injury. ABSA events tend to be primarily ‘wheeled’ events and this one held on the 4th & 5th January 2014 was no exception.
Held in the forest near Wareham, the event weekend was forecast to be a very wet one and it was certainly that! We arrived in the rain on Friday night and camped at a local tourist park (there are many to choose from) called Birchwood. The rain stayed with us throughout Saturday morning and when we got to the venue of the racing, much of the forest was already beginning to flood.
In spite of the rain, everyone was in good spirits and we completed the morning racing safely. For the teams of dogs on the rigs the course was longer at approximately 3 miles but for us on the bike it was a short course of just under 2 miles. By the time we started, even the start chute was beginning to flood but after setting off, the rest of the course wasn’t too bad and most of it was slightly uphill to begin with.
The course gradually worked it’s way around to the right with gentle inclines on wide trails that were flooded and slippery but not too much of a problem on the bike. There were marshals in vehicles dotted around the course, even for the short course we were riding, so we were being kept safe at all times. After about a mile the course took us back down to the right via a sharp turn and then a long downhill which was very slippery then a left, back uphill before a right into the finish.
The course was the same for both days and after Saturday we were lying in third place in the bikejor class, praying for the rain to stop so that Sundays’ races could go ahead. On our way out of the venue the roads were all flooded and it wasn’t looking good for the next day but thankfully we did get a spell of dry which allowed the flood waters to recede.
Day two was not quite as successful for us in spite of the better conditions and we lost out on a podium place by less than a second in the timings. I found the course slightly easier to ride but so did everybody else and it was a competitive class! We finished up 4th and I couldn’t have asked for any more from my little Sprollie, the 3 dogs who beat him were all much bigger than him which can make a difference purely on the stride length they can take to cover the ground.
We enjoyed our trip to Wareham as much as we could given the weather and are thankful to ABSA for opening up their races this season and allowing us to compete in the open classes. The fact that these traditional sled dog organisations are recognising the demand for classes to accommodate the non-sled dog breeds of dog, is a huge step forward in the progress of the sports in the UK. ABSA is unfortunately not going to continue as an organisation after this season but I sincerely hope someone steps up to take the reins so that we can continue to attend these fantastic events, run by real dog sport enthusiasts.