50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 23

C HA P T E R T WO the Saga of the First Race “Over the entire race, less than ten minutes separated the two teams” T - Charles Mason oday’s paddlers might have been surprised, had they stood on Josephine’s Bridge that wet December of 1966 and watched the forty paddlers in the first race get underway to notice the absence of lifejackets and helmets. Their mothers may have tuttutted at some without hats and suncream. Less obvious would have been the fact that most of the paddlers were ‘racing blind’ never having paddled on the Umko before! Most had at least fitted splash covers, as they now knew allowing water to pour into your cockpit in every rapid entailed exhausting swims and time-wasting delays, and high cockpit ‘splashboards’ alone were often not enough to keep out the Umko. One paddler who was not racing blind was Charles Mason and he and partner Tank Rogers in their ‘strongly-built’ Accord K2 (it weighed ninety pounds!) followed Paul Chalupsky and Jimmy Potgieter in their single Limfjorden K1s behind the Willans brothers, who had streaked ahead at the gun in their double ski. Seventeen year old Andre Hawarden didn’t have a splashy though. Paddling with Dusi winner Bob Templeton (you had to enter as a team of two - either in one boat or two), he remembers the start: “The boats we used in those days were really basic, 15ft x 24inch fibre glass hull with a vinyl deck stretched over a wooden framework with a hanging seat, a foot rest and no rudder. Bob’s boat had a fibreglass cockpit with a new invention, a splash cover! My boat had a high galvanized iron cockpit painted red that just carved through the waves like the Titanic without the iceberg! It was a cold drizzly day at Josephine’s Bridge and I can remember my hero worship of Bob when he wandered off and came back with two old Kynoch plastic fertilizer bags. Mystified I watched as he got out his knife and cut head and arm holes in the bags . . . Wow, my first-ever rain jacket.” Determined to give paddlers great value for money, Kingfisher supplied all food, logistics and accommodation for the R2-per-paddle entry fee. No seconding was needed - and anyhow, few seconds would have known where to go. The aim was a different experience, greater camaraderie, more wilderness - modelled on the trips the organisers had undertaken and enjoyed so much. And no portaging! Most paddlers got to Riverside store that day. The food trucks, however, did not. Only two vehicles had made the overnight stop - time-keeper Ozzie Gladwin’s World War 2-vintage Willys Jeep and Papa Chalupsky’s borrowed Landrover which, in reliable and predictable British engineering and Landrover fashion had snapped a side-shaft, leaving Papa with only front-wheel-drive. 23 Hawarden takes up the tale: “The support vehicles couldn’t get down the road to the overnight stop and were stuck in the mud. So no warm clothes, no food, no tents. As the paddlers arrived we shuffled under the awning of Ozzie Gladwin’s Willys Jeep. Mr. Gladwin and his helper each had a thermos of tea and a packet of sandwiches, which they shared with each paddler as they arrived. What a wonderful spirit of comradeship. As the afternoon wore on some of the brighter sparks (Mike von Weiringen and John Keary included) went off up the hill to try to fetch some of the kit. They borrowed an ox sleigh and loaded it up, but unfortunately on the way down it capsized and the load was spilled into the mud and rolled down a hill. Eventually they made it back to Riverside with a bundle of mud-encrusted sleeping bags and a sack full of tins, most without labels. After identifying sleeping bags we were allocated one tin per team of two paddlers and told to enjoy supper! Bob Templeton & André Hawarden “Bob had a tin opener on the knife that he always had with him, my hero again! I’ll never forget just how good half a tin of cold beef stew can taste. As evening settled over the valley the steady drizzle continued, so the store keeper said we could sleep in the shed next to the store. It was pitch dark inside with a small fire going. While all this was happening the other vehicle - the Chalupsky/Potgieter seconding Land Rover, driven by Paul Chalupsky’s father, Papa Chalupsky - comes in to the tale. “Well, Papa was a hard-driving, uncompromising old man who took racing very, very . . . very seriously. He had arrived with the time-keepers and set up camp for his boys. A nice big army tent with stretchers, sheets and blankets. He had the kettle going and as Paul and Jimmy finished there was a cup of tea waiting for them and steaks in the pan. This didn’t add to their popularity. As the evening wore on we smelt UMKO 50 Years