Head-to-Head Sprint Races on Margate Sands | Credit: Kevin Bennett / Malle London
Written by Kevin Bennett
On September 11, Margate Beach saw hundreds of cyclists descend on electric motorcycles, antiques, classics, scooters and almost everything in between, for a series of wild races and even a game of motopolo.
Official photographer Kevin Bennett captured the action, as famous riders like Charley Boorman (The Long Way Round with Ewan McGregor) and Nick Ashley joined 250 competitors in what organizers called an “inappropriate motorcycle beach race.” on the magnificent Margate Sands ”.
Every event or race has a characteristic which, as a photographer, you must try to understand and capture its essence. Some are obvious, but for some it is enough to figure it out on the fly, by shooting from the hip.
In 2020, the defining feature of the Malle Mile Beach Race was always going to be the weather – the wild, horrible and awesome weather. Motorcycles, racers, marshals, spectators and we the photographers were all battered by high 49mph winds, mini sandstorms and 10ft waves, as the race continued regardless.
For 2021, the weather was much fairer and Mother Nature was very kind to us this year – not hot, with sunny moments, but it was at least dry (luckily for my photographic equipment).
So what would be the defining characteristic of this year’s race?
- Could this be the new beach shopping gallery? perfectly located on the promenade, overlooking the race track, the art exhibition, the music.
- Could this be the star-studded line-up of Malle Mile royalty?
- Could it be the epic races and the new racing events?
It all came very close to being that common thread that tied all of the runners and this year’s beach racing experience together. But there was only one thing that would stand out this weekend – the mighty relentless Margate tide, sooner than expected.
Most photography assignments come down to two things: where to stand and the subject.
The first is up to me, to position myself between the bikes and the tide, without being too wet and covered with sand.
Luckily, the latter is taken care of by the Malle team, and event after event they seem to nail it down every time and attract a wonderful array of wild machines, in wild places, with even wilder racers getting it right. grain and bags full of character.
Not only is it completely crazy that there are over 250 motorcycles on the beach, but they run full speed, scramble, slide, wheelie and motorcycle polo.
All this while the tide is closing around them and forcing the masses to retreat onto the beach, a few more meters every few minutes, finally washing away the tire tracks and the race tracks as if nothing had happened.
By late afternoon all the motorcycles had quickly left the beach, the bathers in Margate had returned to soak up the sun and it was as if the race never existed.
For me however, capturing the already crazy spectacle that is the motopolo on a beach, as an island forms around the pitch and the chaotic match by the creeping waters, will be remembered for a long time in my memory.
See the Duke of London himself wading through the waves, chasing a motopolo ball on his utterly ridiculous and utterly fantastic vintage pink Barbie tricycle.
This is the purpose of this wild race and you will not find it anywhere else in the world.
The tide may have cut the fun a little shorter than we all hoped for, but what a race to be a part of that little part and attempt to capture it from the vantage point of the racing photographer.
The 2022 Malle Mile Beach Race will take place at Margate Sands next year. For more information, go here.
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