50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 62

Then - in front of the amused crowd - Ernie said: “Nibble my ear”, leaning in closer to Hugh. “What for?” Hugh spluttered. “Just nibble my ear. I like a bit of passion when I’m being fucked around.” The starter at a shorter pre-Umko race at Hella Hella or No.8 one year was the ever-colourful Arthur Toekoe Egerton who loaded his own ammo for his .38 special. Deciding he wanted a louder bang than usual to be sure all paddlers would hear him he overloaded some ammo specially for the day. This resulted in the revolver exploding, sending shrapnel and metal projectiles in all directions and leaving paddlers in no doubt that the race had truly begun! One year at Hella Hella the water was low, but rising. Officials consulted, and KCC Chairman Bill Barron announced the start would be delayed to allow the water to rise and make its way downstream. Soon after the start of the elite batch, and while the nervous also-rans were still waiting to set off on the now-pumping brown water Bill cheerfully made his now-famous announcement of which there are many different versions. Here are two: “I have just heard from No.1: There is carnage down there. Half the A-batch is swimming and we could pick a full Springbok team on the bank”! Or “We could pick a full Springbok team from the swimmers”. No doubt a few boats were quietly placed back on roofracks. UMKO Officialdom - not all black Mercs and blue lights Lots of mirth and laughter and camaraderie, but always remember the officials still have to do the challenging work: Besides all the organising and logistics there’s the fierce rivalry where some paddlers (or their dads!) shout “unfair!” and the officials have to mediate, placate and rule. Then there’s the safety aspect: Making the calls on when and where - and whether - to paddle. Paddlers who preferred low water would phone when high water rumours were about and plead for the race to be postponed, threatening dire consequences - out of their heartfelt concern for others, not fear for themselves, of course - if it wasn’t. At least nowadays lifejackets (PFDs), helmets and buoyancy aren’t a subject for debate any more. Gone are the days, Mike Frizelle recalls, when on the banks of a raging river all our officials would carefully check was that you were wearing your regulation club colours! Worst of all official duties though, was the lot that befell Pete Mountford, Allie Peter and Robbie Stewart when they were in charge: They had to look for a missing paddler. That has happened before, but this time it took a helicopter trip the next day to find Peter Marlin’s body below Gully Rapid. They also had the tough task of informing his loved ones (we tell a fuller account of the tragedy in the next chapter). Talking helicopters: No.1 approaches - 2007 ©Jon Ivins UMKO 50 Years One year a helicopter landed on the farm at the overnight stop. Not where choppers are meant to land, and it wasn’t the Umko chopper, it was a Squatter Chopper. Ernie found the pilot and the person instructing the pilot. “Oh, my son is doing the race and I just wanted to follow him”. “Te rrible sorry,” said Ernie, “but we have to be careful not to jeopardise the race and our relations with the farmer, plus our chopper is following and filming the race and having a second chopper hovering in the narrow valley could be dangerous. We must ask you to please leave.” The next year the same Dad phoned Rob Davey and this time he asked 62