Computastars comes to an exciting climax

Ross Bentley reports on the sporting action at Computastars final in Hull

Ross Bentley reports on the sporting action at Computastars final in Hull

While the world's media has been distracted by the forthcoming Olympic Games in Sydney, an equally important event took place on 29 July. ITers from all four corners of the land flocked to the Costello Athletics stadium in Hull to compete in the Computer Weekly-sponsored Computastars final.

In all, 50 teams took part in a wide range of disciplines that, according to event organiser Gordon Cairns, were intended to test intelligence as well as athleticism. "There is also a large team-building element to the events with the contestants having to work together and rely on each other," he explained.

It was the redoubtable Cairns who, along with Computer Weekly, initiated Computastars 23 years ago, an event that has since become an essential on the IT industry calender. This year, Cairns even received a request to participate from a group of prisoners studying for computer qualifications. He declined, perhaps worried that these particular athletes would not stop running at the finishing line.

Football heading, hockey ball dribbling, hurdling, vaulting, beam balancing and sprinting were among the disciplines in the final, but although contestants were taking the on-track activities seriously, the atmosphere was light-hearted and jovial.

I interrupted the stretching exercises of Sam Beauchamp, IT training instructor at Chertsey-based financial services company Mynd, who was limbering up for the vaulting event. She told me her official role was "team-joker", who was concentrating on the mental preparation more than the physical.

Standing nearby was Oracle's Adam Bennett. The Reading-based customer education executive was last year's European men's individual champion and he looked ready to defend his title as he downed Lucozade and munched bananas between events. "So, you are a highly tuned athlete then Adam?" I enquired, impressed by his dietary preparations. "More of an enthusiastic nutter, really," he replied.

The vaulting event seemed the most strenuous. Four steeple-chase jumps were placed close together and teams were given one minute to see how many circuits and jumps they could complete.

This was no pursuit for tired limbs. Clive Brooks, software development project manager at Air Miles, Gatwick, was one competitor who fell victim to this particular event. "I tried to run through the vaults rather than over - I thought it might be quicker," he quipped through gritted teeth as a colleague applied an ice-pack to his bruised knee.

The strangest event of the day was the caterpillar relay. Teams were required to work together to shuffle along in unison inside a plastic liner, while carrying a medicine ball. This tested team co-operation to the full - an attribute that the women from the Birmingham Midshires IT department had in abundance.

Computastars was especially interesting for the women from the firm's Wolverhampton branch, as it was a chance to meet up with fellow IT workers from Halifax bank and Clerical Medical, who are all part of the same organisation.

Meanwhile, the guys from Cap Gemini Southbank were struggling with the balancing aspect of the beam event - a symptom they put down to over enthusiastic preparations out on the town in Hull the previous night. Despite this, they were looking forward to more "team-bonding" at the post-event bash, and their happy-go-lucky demeanour summed up the nature of the competition.

At this point, the unseasonal East Yorkshire skies unleashed a torrential downpour - forcing all the competitors inside the sports hall, where an impromptu badminton event kept people occupied until things dried up.

Although it was generally agreed that is was the taking part that counted, Computer Weekly editor Karl Schneider was on hand to present the trophies to the winning teams - Tech Connect in the men's event and Severn Trent Systems in the women's event - and the individual winners Matthew Beech of Birmingham Midshires and Lisa Payne of Severn Trent Systems.

Those who finished at the top end of the scoreboard can now look forward to the European Computastars event due to be held in Ostend this September. But before that they had one last event to tackle -Êthe post-event party planned for that evening.

By that time, this reporter had made his excuses and left. Prompted, perhaps, by his editor's pledge to enter a Computer Weekly editorial team for next year's shenanigans.

For full Computastars results and listings go to computastars.com

Computastars - UK final winners

Men's team results

  • 1 Tech Connect

  • 2 QXL.com

  • 3 Birmingham Midshires

  • 4 Post Office IS VETS

  • 5 Cap Gemini Redcar

    Women's team results

  • 1 Severn Trent Systems

  • 2 Air Miles

  • 3 Cap Gemini Redcar

  • 4 Centre File

  • 5 Rolfe & Nolan

    Men's individual results

  • 1 Matthew Beech (Birmingham Midshires)

  • 2 Mark White (Tech Connect)

  • 3 Neil de Villiers (QXL.COM)

  • 4 Rob Underwood (Cap Gemini Redcar)

  • 5 Graham Wimbleton (QXL.COM)

    Women's individual results

  • 1 Lisa Payne (Severn Trent Systems)

  • 2 Jen Milson (Cap Gemini Redcar)

  • 3 Marl Schmidt (Air Miles)

  • 4 Kath Brown (Centre File)

  • 5 Janet Lindsay (Rolfe & Nolan)

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