50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 85

boats. Rowan was some distance behind, paddling furiously to catch up, no helmet, no lifejacket, being pelted freely. He got to cover just before the storm ended, covered in red welts. Even Charlie Mason swims On a high river in 1999 Charles Mason and Roelof van Riet swam approaching No.7. They tried to make the bank but got swept by the strong current down the main channel on the right. Both clung to the boat and tried to guide it with Roelof reverting to Afrikaans in his hour of need, crying out “O, fok! O, fok!”. After the main drop Charles ended on the downstream side of the K2 which pinned him against one of the big ‘house rocks’. Luckily the wide rock wouldn’t allow the boat to wrap, but the only way he could free himself was to force his way under the boat. They continued and reached the finish, where John Oliver handed Charles his helmet. Allie Peter and Mike Frizelle had found it bobbing some kms down from No.7. Charles had not even realised he had lost it! In the early ‘80s Hugh Raw paddled with legendary ‘Iron Man’ Jimmy Potgieter in one of those Umkos that ended at Goodenough’s Weir. “Jimmy did not do much training in those days, he smoked a lot of those thin little cheroots and had a reserved stool at most of the pubs in town. I was a complete beginner and although it was my Accord, Jimmy was happy to drive and I was happy to learn from him.” “On the last day we approached the Waterfall where Jimmy recounted his version of the Peter Peacock Incident which had me spell-bound. I have since heard Peter’s version of what happened but there is a big bit missing in the middle. I guess being unconscious leaves a gap. “But I digress - we portaged the Falls with much looking back at them very sobering. We were all alone by this stage, the field had spread out and when a lone single came into view on those flats it was quite encouraging to me. All through Whirlpool and Gully we kept the K1 in sight and there was only No-Name Rapid left according to Jimmy and then the Weir at Goodenoughs. By this time we were pulling really hard, determined to catch the “Lone Ranger”. “We reeled him in eventually on those flats and Jimmy greeted him as they were old mates from early Dusi days. Still competitive as ever Jimmy (to a lesser extent me) ‘put the hammer down’ as Hank would say and as we pulled away I glimpsed a little smile from the Lone Ranger. By dint of some puffing and panting our K2 drew away a short distance and I was already rehearsing my acceptance speech for my first beer at the finish as we lined up for the last rapid: No Name Rapid. I mean it must be a push-over, right? “But the boat bounced off a hidden rock at the very top, we toppled out and swam down to the bottom of this fairly long rapid with me holding the tail of the K2 in the approved fashion, paddle gone on ahead. That’s when Charles Mason - who had ‘only’ 15 or so Umko notches on his paddle in those days - came through without missing a beat. He didn’t smile too broadly but it was written in body language all over his back. Charles is a great student of the Umko and he has a saying:- ‘The Umko is a great leveller’. I believe that too.” Charles remembers the incident well: “We were dicing for our age-group title. When I saw Hugh and Jimmy swim I realised I still had a chance to beat them. Twenty minutes to go! Concentrate! No mistakes! I pulled hard to put as much distance between us before they could get going again. What I didn’t realise is they had damaged their boat just enough to put them out of contention.” 85 Creatures - Hugh and Jimmy again After patting ourselves on the back for surviving No.1 and No.2 our Accord was in need of an empty so Jimmy turned the boat towards the bank on a quiet stretch of the river. As we drifted silently in a large head popped out of the water just in front of us and then submerged as we drifted over it. Two things happened simultaneously. Jimmy exploded out of his cockpit and nearly landed on my lap making puffing noises and I - trying to ease his distress - said, “It’s OK Jim, its just a leggevaan”. Then I caught sight of big coils under the boat slowly moving away in the current. The beautiful colouring told me what it was and I saw a girth as big as my thigh. Jimmy, the victor of many a barfight was difficult to get back in the boat. He was still breathing heavily and desperate for a smoke. There was quiet for a while in the boat and then Jimmy spoke to no one in particular, “I don’t care what it was, it was bigger than me”. Work To Rule Rory Chicken Man Pennefather paddled with Tony Scotty Scott for the first time ever in a K2 at the start of a marathon at Josephine’s. “Scotty was great fun to paddle with. It felt like having a turbo boost with him sitting behind me, but he could joke around better than anyone. That year we won the Umko marathon. At the start Scotty asked me how long the first day would take us and I guessed about three hours. “Right”, he said. “That’s it. In three hours I stop paddling” and he was true to his word! When the three hours were up we could see the finish about a hundred metres ahead of us and Scotty put down his paddle and left me to paddle the last bit on my own. I do think he checked in his rear view mirror to make sure no one was in sight before he knocked off!” And where from the Chicken Man nickname? (certainly not from any lack of courage!): “I got the Chicken Man nickname from living in a canoeist digs in PMB in the seventies. My brother Pat, Hubby Sandberg, Matt Carlisle, Alick Rennie, Jerome Truran and JimBob Taylor plus other paddlers lived there off and on for several years. Most, but not all, were lazy students who would not get up in the morning. Fortunately there was a radio cartoon clip at 7am every morning of a super hero called Chicken Man. I made it my duty when the loud and terrifying chicken call came on, to turn up the radio volume and wake the house. It was treated with annoyance and mirth and earned me the name, try as hard as I might to change it to Feathered Fighter or Winged Warrior. Chicken Man fought “crime and evil” and I told them that indolence and lethargy were both.” Talking about . . KINGFISHER FALLS Cartoon by Jock Leyden UMKO 50 Years