50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 54

seen again, while yet others very sensibly walked out with boats intact if they thought the level was a danger to them. Robbie Stewart asks: “Do you remember seeing what looked like washing draped on the grass on the bank but it was Charlie Mason and his squad hanging onto the grass watching us go past – probably to see where we went. Probably the most exciting three days of our lives! I clearly remember the noise of the rocks rolling down the river bed – particularly in that first big rapid after Josephine’s. And having to be careful not to paddle into a barbed wire fence if you were cutting a corner. And Porky puking at the start of the second day when he saw me in a life jacket. He was still a schoolboy and I was about the only person who had a life jacket, I think. I put it on because the waves had been knocking my breath out. Roly Alborough lost his boat at the overnight stop – the river had come up so much that it had got washed away!” Ali Maynard on camping next to a rising river: “At about 11pm we awoke to pouring rain and funny noises. We all got up and taking a torch went to see what the river was like. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. The river, which had already been high, was now up - seriously up! Roly Alborough’s boat and three others got washed away. In the water huge trees were hitting the bridge (the strange noises we had heard). Dead cows were going downstream very fast.” One of the numerous paddlers who lost their boats was Hamish Gerrard who got hit by a surge of water on the wide river in the vicinity of Old Campsite as he tried to cross the main stream to get on the inside of a bend. Everyone was dead keen to avoid getting swept around the outside where the current was fastest and swept up against the cliffs. He fell out and after trying to swim his boat to the side for a while gave that up and just got himself to the shore. Followed by the long walk and in his case, hanging up his paddle for good. 1972 finishers These 13 guys made it from Hella Hella to the sea - the highest-ever and one of the four longest-ever Umkos: Paul Chalupsky & Tony Scott Robbie Stewart & Rowan Rasmussen Graeme Pope-Ellis & Eric Clarke Roly Alborough & Ken Wright Johan (Koos) Kruger Charles Mason Ali Maynard Duncan (Porky) Paul Rory Lynsky Paul & Scotty’s winning time for the 145km course was an amazing 7 hours 9 minutes and 46 seconds, with Robbie and Rowan arriving exactly one minute later! The Actual Race at the Sharp End Tony Scott Ever seen the Approaches looking like this? UMKO 50 Years We arrived at Hella Hella to find the river roaring at about 50 foot. Quite a few entrants after checking the level, climbed back in their cars and left. Colin Wilson tried extremely hard to start, taking his boat on and off his car about five times before reluctantly giving way to common sense. I was paddling with Paul Chalupsky, probably the most experienced paddler on the Umkomaas at the time, and felt relatively confident in a big Accord (which I called the Queen Mary). The lines at this high level were totally different – generally being the inside corner. Rapid 5&6 is normally entered on the right of the centre rock. This year we were right of the big rock on the right bank, normally high and dry, then down through the flooded fields to finally re-enter down a cascade below the end of 5&6. The singles left before the doubles. When we caught the singles I can still picture them against the far bank huddled like a bunch of ducklings – all following Charlie Mason. Racing was the last thing on their minds. Now it was down to survival. We had one swim, which after discussion with Robbie Stewart, was probably the same place that he and Rowan Rasmussen had swum - a little upstream from Mpompomani Rapid. The speed that the water was moving left no time to head for the side or avoid a huge wave almost as wide as the river. All I heard was Paul shout one word “CRIKEY” and we were under water. Paul believed the Queen Mary was unsinkable with stainless steel nose cone, vinyl lining, high cockpits and high fitting spray covers. He eventually convinced me that with all this we wouldn’t need pumps. This decision left us playing catch up with Robbie Stuart and Rowan Rasmussen after every 54