Event and Race Director's Reports
All the starters from the inaugural 2016 Cape Wrath Ultra™ © Ian Corless
Event Director’s Report
By Shane Ohly
I have learnt from the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race™ what a profound impact an event like the Cape Wrath Ultra™ can have on the participants, and event team alike. This event was no exception, and there were many moments of profound highs, and a few profound lows for many people involved in the event. We promised an ‘extraordinary adventure’ and ‘a once in a lifetime journey’, and I believe we delivered this.
It was an honour to share the journey and adventure with such a great event team, and a group of participants that exceeded my expectations in terms of the high finish rate, and their jovial and determined approach.
The intensity of the experience, amplified by extreme fatigue has the effect of raising emotions and searing the event into one’s mind. I know that we all remember the inaugural Cape Wrath Ultra™ for the rest of our lives.
Thanks to the Event Team
The event team was awesome. Absolutely awesome! The entire team worked incredibly hard, with relentless enthusiasm and commitment, and I am sincerely grateful for their help and support, as I know the participants are too. All of the event team crossed their role boundaries to lend a hand to other roles whenever they could. It was fantastic to witness the spontaneous standing ovation for the team at the prize giving ceremony (it is the first time I have seen that at one of my events), and I know this was a special moment for many as I witnessed some tearful eyes.
The Cape Wrath Ultra™ 2016 Event Team. © Rob Howard
Whilst we clearly delivered a world-class event, it was only possible thanks to this small team of dedicated people. Once again I would like to express my total thanks to the team that included:
- Abbi Forsyth – Medical Team
- Allie O'Donovan – Camp Team
- Andrew Hastie – Camp Team and Retirements Driver
- Becci Leung – Medical Team
- Ben Pritchard – Media Team
- Claire Ellis – Remote Medical Team
- Colin Harding – Remote CP & PP Team
- Craig Letham – Camp Team
- Darrel Singh – Remote Medical Team
- Dave Cumins – Remote CP & PP Team
- Duncan Anderson – Camp Team
- Ettore Crocetti Marzotto – Camp Team
- Fiona Callan – CP Team and Retirements Driver
- Gary Tompsett – Course and Race Director
- Heather Ohly – Catering Team
- Helen Samson – Ourea Events
- Ian Cowie – Remote Team
- Ian Corless – Media Team
- Jack Cooper – Camp Team
- Jane Hunter – CP and Retirements Driver
- Jim Imber – Camp Team
- Joe Faulkner – Safety Team
- John Allen – Camp Team and Various
- Kate Worthington – Camp Team and Welfare
- Lawrie Jones – Camp Team
- Louise Allen – Catering Team
- Matt Gemmell – Safety Monitoring
- Matt Harmon – Camp Team
- Melanie Culleton-Wright – Medical and Camp Team
- Mike Mitchell – Medic Team
- Paul Weaving – Medical/Camp Team
- Pete Gabriel – Camp Team
- Philip Wilkinson – Remote CP & PP Team
- Rich Heap – Media Team
- Rob Howard – Media Team
- Stewart Caithness- Safety Monitoring
- Stuart Smith – Safety Team
- Sue Dowker – Ourea Events
- Tim Glasby – Catering Team
- Tom Hecht – Marketing, Vehicles and IT
- Tom Withers – Camp Team
Safety Management and Logistics
I explained at the pre-event briefing that the role of the race directorial team is not necessarily to make friends with the participants (although it is great when this happens), and that my priorities are safety (of both the participants and event team) followed by fluid logistics. The Cape Wrath Ultra™ has many complex logistics, and various serious safety management challenges. Overall, I think we overcame these adeptly, and were able to deliver a great event as a result, but this did come at the expense of a few participants’ personal experiences.
When we plan a complex event like the Cape Wrath Ultra™ we need to make many estimates, calculations and decisions about timings, cut-offs, participants speed etc. Obviously we can’t tailor all these for each individual participant, but take a collective approach to enable us to deliver the best possible experience, for the greatest number of participants. Unfortunately, very occasionally, this will mean that when a participant teeters on the edge of the event logistics and safety management planning, I’ll have no choice but to take decisive action to protect the integrity of the ongoing event plans.
There were a small number of violations of event rules. Overall these had little impact on the event or the overall positions, but the event rules are essential for a number of reasons including:
- They ensure fairness between the participants
- They ensure a minimum standard of clothing and equipment
- They are sometimes essential as part of our negotiations with landowners and authorities
The rule violations ranged from accidental route variance, to deliberate corner cutting, to missing items of mandatory kit. Our pre-event plan to penalise participants with time penalties, did not have the teeth I was hoping for, and I was actually shocked when one participant even asked me what the time penalty would be if they cut a corner, so that they could calculate whether to cut the corner or not! My realisation has been that most participants are not actually that bothered by a time penalty, as simply completing the course is their only goal. For future events, we will revisit our approach to rule violations in order to get better compliance to our course management strategy.
The Finish at Cape Wrath Lighthouse
The late arrival of the event team at Cape Wrath lighthouse, is one of my few disappointments of the event. The Cape Wrath team had the Finish Gantry and Banner, and the SPORTident finish boxes, so their late arrival meant that the first eleven finishers could not record their finish time. Fortunately, this only affected eleven participants, but that was eleven too many for me. Two factors combined to cause this problem. First and foremost, the boat logistic across the Kyle of Durness was late to arrive. Our team had a frustrating 30-minute wait on the slipway, with several chasing calls to the service providers. In the meantime, there was a rush ‘to be the first to the Cape’ with many of our faster runners setting off earlier than usual. Certainly, we could have managed this start more closely, and I had given instructions to most of the faster runners not to start early, but we needed to enforce this start time. Gary Tompsett was on the ball though, and realising that the fastest runners were likely to beat the Cape Wrath team, he arranged with John Ure at the Ozone Café to record their finish times for us.
Amendment 8th June 2016. During the post event mop up it came to our attention that despite our best efforts to record the leading runners finish times, and hence get the overall results, that the margin between Stuart McDonald and Kevin Stephens was so small that it was impossible to determine a definitive overall position for these runners. Therefore, we have made the decision to make both participants equal 6th. We hope that this is the fairest and most equitable solution and would like to apologise again for the confusion.
Race Organisers: Shane Ohly (Left - Event Director) and Gary Tompsett (Right - Race Director) © Rob Howard
Race Director’s Report
By Gary Tompsett
With such a rich event experience, there is a ‘danger’ that too many words are written in a report like this. Not a danger (in this event instance) that the words are controversial, revealing or telling, but just that there are not enough words to describe what just happened! Let me drop in here, something that I wrote into the CWU Participants Facebook Group;
I get involved in many adventurous events, and this one is up there with the best, if not the best, for memories and success (however that is measured). I would particularly like to mention (to both participants and crew) that it was your considered and mutually respectful attitude that made this event a journey of best humanity, as much as a journey through stunning topography! Wishing you all the best for your next endeavours... I hope to meet you again xxx.
Sincerely, I can’t expand on that praise much more. It was clearly a life-affirming gig for most people involved.
Some participants were not able to complete the full route. Credit to you then - for sticking with the event convoy until the medal ceremony and dinner. Some were injured, some were humbled, ALL were welcome. Occasionally, our rulings (or your misadventures), closed the doors on your ambition to complete the route. As explained in the Saturday briefing, our priority has to be to care for the ongoing participants that are adhering to the schedule. We understand the highs and lows of eventing - we also take part in similar events, and would have to admit are rather competitive. We believe that adherence to rules and rapid & fair actions will please the vast majority of the participants and maintain the good welfare of the event crew – who are active for many more hours than the participants. It’s actually one result of risk-assessing the event. You run. The crew drive and manoeuvre vehicles, build and dismantle structures, work with electricity, move thousands of Kg’s of weight and also sleep in vans and tents without access to showers etc. Their welfare is as important as the participants, in keeping the event on the rails.
From my point of view, there are five areas of ‘work’ that are interesting:
- Landowners for the Route and for the Overnight Camps: Considerable consultation took place in this regard. It has gone well. We’ll know more as we work through the Mop-Up with landowners, but we think that Scotland liked you. Significantly aided by clean rig-outs of the camps and the lack of litter left on the course. Though you were not so hot at closing gates!
- Route Following Disciplines: We always knew that there would be a range of navigational abilities in this event, hence the GPX and Custom Map provisions. However, some of the navigational blunders made, were real howlers. We expected to get involved in more 400 metre corridor racing-line judgements, but instead we occasionally looked-on dismayed as some runners took some rather strenuous detours! It was Tracker TV at its most revealing! The weather/visibility for 2016 will probably never be bettered.
- The terrain underfoot was as easy as it gets for this course. The underfoot conditions experienced in 2016 will probably never be bettered in subsequent years.
- Midges: We chose late May for several reasons, including for the avoidance of worst midges. If the event did get hit with worst midges it would be an extreme test for our crew and you all. We remain on guard!
- Our management structure when the event was live: We had a structure that worked well. We have a very collaborative approach, as practiced in a few of our other events. Perhaps you reflected this in your response to us. I sincerely hope that you found us approachable, fair, understanding and good humoured, even if sometimes assertive.
- We are sure that there will be some small tweaking to the event course, rules, timings etc. The 2018 event will demonstrate this. But for a Year 1 event, we are delighted. We thought that there would be a higher retirement rate. The weather, and your readiness, gladly prevented this. That is good for everyone… Thank you!
Lastly, seeing that Shane speaks of the disappointment of the late ferry service, I should comment that there was also lateness at the extraction end of proceedings, with the buses, when, for the best welfare of a 14-strong and elderly bird-watching group, one bus transit interrupted our sequence (one round bus trip takes 2 hours). Well, this lead to a delay in the repatriation of Luke and Hazel to Sango Bay Campsite… But. It also enabled; 1. A great welcome for them from the whole participant family, 2. A rapid transition to the beach event photo, 3. A rapid transition by buses to the Hall, where 4. Food, drinks, and the medal ceremony awaited. Sometimes, events conspire to bring a fortuitous outcome; and this instance, an even slicker choreographic sequence. This, we should never be disappointed with!
Event Director’s Report Continued
By Shane Ohly
On Going Health
Whether you completed the full course or not, everyone of the participants’ bodies has taken a significant battering, and we would highly recommend an extended period of recovery now. I overheard Marcus Scotney saying he intended to have 4 weeks off running, followed by 10 weeks of easy running. That sounds like good advice to me, as all to often we have seen participants in our expedition length races return to running too early, and end up with chronic fatigue and injury problems. Time to let your bodies heal!
We would also like to reiterate the danger of Lymes Disease from tick bites. Whilst this is unlikely, if you develop a ‘bulls eye’ rash around a tick bite, or experience flu like symptoms in the next 30 days, we would advise a trip to the doctors. Ensure that you explain you have been bitten by a tick. There is more information Lymes Disease Action website.
Like ‘Dragon Mail™’ the Cape Wrath Ultra™ ‘Ultra Mail™’ proved extremely popular with over 1,000 messages of support sent to the participants during the event. We love this component of the event, and delivering Ultra Mail is one of the prized event team jobs because of the obvious joy it brings to the participants.
All the participants GPS tracks are public and available for everyone to view. They can be downloaded here: 2016 Tracking GPX Files
In my pre-event briefing to the participants, I did warn them that 1000’s would be watching their GPS trackers, and that they should be on their best behaviour. Well we are delighted to confirm that there was huge digital engagement with the outside world whilst the event was taking place. Some of the top line statistics include (between 5th May - 2nd June):
Digital reach: ~100,000 people
Post engagements (shares, likes, comments): 87,000
Video views: ~18,700
Page likes 2,532 (up 598)
Page views: 8,500
162,000 tweet impressions (up 449%)
13,900 profile visits (up 1779%)
785 mentions (up 946%)
3,779 followers (up 186)
Unique Users (Cape Wrath Ultra™ website): 11,634
Unique Users (live tracking website): 7,200
If you are writing a blog about the event please share it with us on social media and by email. We will compile a list of the competitor blogs in due course.
Economic Impact Survey
It would be extremely helpful if as many participants as possible would complete this economic impact survey. It will only take 2-3 minutes. We are asking participants to complete this survey so that we can clearly demonstrate to organisations (like the Highland Council, National Trust and major landowners) the positive economic impact events have on the local economy at a time when many landowners are dramatically increasing the fees they charge to events. This is really important.
We will provide two free Cape Wrath Ultra™ ‘Finishers’ gilets to be drawn from the participants completing this survey: Economic Impact Survey
Feedback is very important to us. Whatever you have to say, positive or negative we are keen to hear your thoughts. This is so important for us in refining and improving the event. Certainly, the honest feedback we have received with regards to our sister event, the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race™ has been instrumental in polishing the details, and the event is better for it. So, please don’t be shy and get in touch with your comments
Ian Corless's Reports
Ian Corless was on hand to document the entire event. You can read his reports and wonder at his photography with the links below:
- Cape Wrath Ultra™ 2016 Preview
- The 95! – The 2016Cape Wrath Ultra™ Starts
- The Cape Wrath Ultra™ 2016 – Day 1
- The Cape Wrath Ultra™ 2016 – Day 2
- The Cape Wrath Ultra™ 2016 – Day 3
- The Cape Wrath Ultra™ 2016 – Day 4
- The Cape Wrath Ultra™ 2016 – Day 5
- The Cape Wrath Ultra™ 2016 – Day 6
- The Cape Wrath Ultra™ 2016 – Day 7
- The Cape Wrath Ultra™ 2016 – Day 8 - They did it!
Rob Howard / SleepMonsters Reports
Rob Howard from the adventure racing website SleepMonsters, is a veteran of many events and his excellent words describe how the event unfolded:
- The Journey to Cape Wrath
- A Race Map To Hold Onto
- The Route to Cape Wrath
- The First Cape Wrath Ultra is Underway
- A Gentle Introduction to the Cape Wrath Ultra
- Checkpoint 2 and Into Knoydart
- Through Knoydart to Kinloch Hourn
- Day 3. Crunch Time
- Time Out at the Kintail Lodge
- Scotney and Adams Lead The Way
- A Cold, Windy Evening on Day 3
- Torridon Trails and Trials
- Running, A Life Changing Choice for Ita
- Into Fisherfield and the Second Half of the Cape Wrath Ultra
- Adventurers Assemble
- The Longest Day
- To Kinlochbervie - Next Stop Cape Wrath
- Marcus Scotney wins the first Cape Wrath Ultra
- Close to the Edge
- Lighthouse Chatter
2016 Finisher's Gilet
We had many requests from participants for their own gilets that the event team were wearing. We have decided to get some additional gilets made to order, which will have '2016 Finisher' embroidered into them. We will email all the finishers direct with the details/price/size options etc.
2017 Berghaus Dragon's Back Race™ Entry
We promised a guaranteed entry slot into the Berghaus Dragon's Back Race™ in 2017 for anyone who completed the Cape Wrath Ultra™. We will be emailing all the finishers direct with further information shortly.
2018 Date & Entries
The 2018 Cape Wrath Ultra™ will be held Sunday 20th to Sunday 27th May. Please note that there will be a registration and travel day at each end of these dates so participants will need to plan to be in Scotland Saturday 19th through to Monday 28th May 2018. Entries will open at 1200 noon on Monday 8th May 2017. We expect the event to sell out very quickly (days certainly, hours possibly).
We know it has been an emotional journey and we hope the memories of your Scottish expedition race stay with you forever. Rest up and prepare for your next adventure - for inspiration please check out our other events.
We won’t list here all the landowners, stakeholders and service providers. There are over 50, and we will write to most of them to thank them and enquire upon any feedback. It might have felt remote out there, but they are all managed estates and they have very powerful binoculars!
There are reasons to mention some specifically, as follows below, in chronological order – maybe you can send some more business their way: Though not in late May 2018! Please tell them that they were mentioned in our post-event report.
Event Centre and Start: Kenny McLaughlin at the Nevis Centre. Served us well.
Dougie Robertson and his ferries. He runs the regular Camasnagaul ferry and he brought in the Souter’s Lass boat, from Crannog Cruises in order to fulfil capacity.
Davy Elder. The resplendent ‘Munro’ piper at Camusnagaul.
The Good Highland Food Company. Mike and Yvonne Crook. Served us well. Literally.
Heilan Loos. Keith and Neil also served us well.
Overnight 1: Alistair Gibson of Glenfinnan. He enjoyed our stay, though we have asked if he can get the steam trains to run on a Sunday for 2018!
Western Isles Cruises of Mallaig. Gave our safety team safe access to remote Knoydart and helped our extraction of participant Sherif Hampton.
Overnight 2: Kinloch Hourn Tearoom and B&B (and old cottage). Delightful location and facility at a very remote road end. Talk to Tony and perhaps plan a revisit there?
Overnight 3: Lair Croft, Achnashellach. The charming Cudby family are just starting to get their campsite off the ground here - perfect for walkers on the Cape Wrath Trail. They have offered that anyone taking part in the Cape Wrath Ultra™ can have a free stay here in the future.
Overnight 4: Kinlochewe had a clutch of people that helped us, partly as we were clearly visible within the village: The Village Hall was enabled by Fionna Brown, the Games Pitch by Malcolm MacDonald and the Trustees, the Whistle Stop Café unfortunately could not be open until the following morning, but perhaps in 2018 – thanks to Liz Broom’s tolerance of the use of the adjacent car park. Nearby, at Cromasaig B&B, Tom and Liz Forrest have been long-time fans of the event concept, from the beginning, in 2014. The Hotel was forewarned on our arrival, and responded well to our shock & occupation that evening!
Overnight 5: Clachan Farm at Inverbroom. The farmer Scott and his sons really enjoyed seeing us there and were always wanting to help. Along with his wife Marie, they also run a B&B.
The Oykel Bridge Hotel. A sanctuary for many, and always responds to needy adventurers – as well as their usual salmon-fishing clientele.
Overnight 6: Inchnadamph. The Estate keeper Craig Ross was a chipper and helpful man. For this field he asked that our hire fee go to the local Mountain Rescue Team – Assynt. We also received Internet connection help from Chris Rix at the nearby Field Centre.
Overnight 7: Kinlochbervie Village Hall, School and Pitch. Helen O’Keefe was great here, and is trying to keep this Village Hall from shutting down due to lack of maintenance funding. The football pitch also, needs funding to fix the drainage. Our hire contributions will help. Many thanks to Susan and Clare at the school, and Iain Munro of the Pitch Committee.
Lighthouse Finish at Cape Wrath. John Ure lives here and runs the Ozone Café. We are indebted to him in many ways. Send your friends there! James Mather and the Cape Wrath Buses. They are running a service on the margins of profitability here. James has a garage where there are always one or two buses having their suspension and bearings replaced! The Ferryman – John Morrison. John is the sole licensee of this ferry route across the Kyle of Durness at Keoldale, appointed by the Highland Council. Durness Bus Company. Nick Hird provided the slick movements of buses between Keoldale and Sango Bay campsite, and later between the campsite and the Community Hall. There is a symbiotic relationship between these four operators, and they are adaptable to the variable demands of this supply and ‘extraction’ of all manner of visitors to Cape Wrath.
Sango Sands Oasis. James Keith operates he campsite and the pub, and was always very welcoming and helpful. We were made to feel very much at home there, even with our mass occupation of part of the site.
Durness Community Hall and Durness in general. A terrific welcome from this village, and many thanks to Lucy Mackay for the arrangements at the Hall, especially for the interior furnishings – perfect for our ceremony! Alan Andrews was our well received pipe – the joy/pride in his young sons’ face was clear to see.
Shiel Buses. Provided the coaches back to Fort William, and in fact a standby service should there have been a gale on the first Sunday, rendering the ferry crossing too hazardous.
Bothies. You might have taken a peek at the bothies on our route. Most are maintained by the donation funded MBA, whilst others are private Estate bothies, but still open for anyone’s use. Please consider becoming a member.
Others in brief: Highland Council (Consultation, Parking and Refuse Bins), Scottish Natural Heritage, National Trust for Scotland, John Muir Trust, Treslaig Village Hall, Conaglen Estate, Glendessary Estate, Camusrory Estate, Barisdale Estate, Kintail Lodge Hotel, Inverinate and Killilan Estate, Attadale Estate, Benmore Estate, Inchnadamph Estate, Reay and Achfary / Grosvenor Estate (Duke of Westminster), Inchnadamph Hotel, Rhiconich Hotel, Kinlochbervie Hotel, M.O.D. Cape Wrath Range, and lastly the many hotels, cafes and B&B that hosted (tolerated) our Safety Monitoring team as they leap-frogged northwards through the Highlands – we maintained up to 6.45am-11.30pm constant eye on the tracking and event emergency phone.