50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 29

2005 Day 1 - No. 1 ©Jon Ivins owners. And vitally: It includes the Hella Hella “numbered rapids” stretch. Long may it last! The nettle had been grasped and that one-word solution has been applied ever since. The ‘word’ of course, is Hella Hella - the one thing that makes the Umko truly different from other races. After that 1982 race Geoff Austin of JCC wrote to SA Canews calling the ‘82 “one of the greatest races ever” and pleaded for KCC to ignore cries that it was ‘too tough’. The 1996 race admitted the ‘toughness’ dilemma by allowing ‘the less confident paddler to opt for a race with a lesser degree of difficulty’: You could start at No.8 - but your race would not count towards an Umko green number. That experiment has mostly been shelved and the dilemma is no more. For a long time now, the Umko has included the most-spoken-about section of the river. Hella Hella’s butterflies are here to stay! Of the 49 races paddled to date at least 34 (maybe 36) have included the signature Hella Hella to No.8 rapids. Traditionalists may bemoan the shortening of the race; More will lament the loss of the iconic remote compulsory overnight stop; 29 But most will agree keeping the race alive and keeping the rugged Hella Hella section were the bigger prizes. In emphasising that ultimately paddlers would decide the future of ‘their race’, but obviously wanting to retain the Umko spirit and atmosphere, whoever wrote the 1982 program article on the race format pointedly referred to Dusi camp scenes as “complete with hangers-on, scrambler motorbikes and girlfriends soothing the fevered brow!” saying in effect, “We Umko ous don’t want THAT do we?” Safety Safety is obviously a big consideration when discussing race format and changes, but the race is a challenging one held in a remote area with few access points and danger will always be part of the Umko. The organisers do what they can to minimise it. Checking the use of compulsory buoyancy, helmets and personal flotation devices; the presence of ‘sweep’ boats behind the last boats. Colin Roets handled the Umko safety for years, assisted by his son Steve and Tony Botes. He was later joined by Rob Hill who eventually took over this portfolio. Rob Hill does most of the organising UMKO 50 Years