50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 92

family didn’t have time to scout the river as we had and would probably follow us into this very shallow section, which they did. Risky, but it paid off because we never saw them again … well, it gave us an extra half minute or so, just enough to hold them off, all the way to the end. Never paddled so hard in my life. There, that’s how we won the National Championships on the Umko (sorry, Rory)! An American on the Umko 2015 - A week before Umko an American kayaker Culley Thomas contacted KCC to see if he could enter the race. His story: “Thanks again Rob and Aileen. I had a great time at the Umko! Here is a summary I sent my friends once I got back: “One reason I love kayaking: The global kayaking community! I was in South Africa for work last week and on a whim decided it would be fun to paddle on a continent I had never visited before. After some quick internet research I found out A) It’s the wet season and rivers are flowing; B) There was a race on the Mkomazi River; and C) There was going to be a party. Excellent! Only problem was that I didn’t have a kayak, paddle, life jacket or any other piece of gear. I also had no car and no clue where in the country the river was. Back on the internet, I found a kayak blog and asked if I could borrow or rent a boat and other gear. Within six hours race organiser Rob Davey had sorted out all my equipment and other logistics. He and his wife Aileen picked me up at the airport in Durban, gave me a room in their guest house on Friday night and a 2-hour ride to the race the next morning. Now whitewater kayak races in South Africa are a little different than what I am used to in the USA. The races are long (the Umko is two days and 70km), they paddle Class 4 whitewater in boats that we would consider sea kayaks or surf skis and most importantly, South African kayakers are in really good shape. Finally you are racing through really wild gorges with wildlife and remote villages on the shores. The race was super fun. I was happy that the first day was the easier of the two. I think it took me about 20km to figure out how to turn the long boat with no rocker and another 10km to figure out that it is actually fairly stable (just all secondary and no primary stability). Needless to say I think I was near the back of the pack, but still happy to be out paddling in the beautiful canyons. After the first day during the 3-hour shuttle to camp, I realised that South African and American paddlers have the exact same fondness for road beers and shit-talking on long dusty bumpy drives. During the ride and at the party the paddlers and other participants went out of their way to make me feel at home. The next day was much harder (decent-sized and pushy Class 4 rapids for most of the run). I did a fair bit better on this section and moved up a few places, but still placed nowhere near the top in the cumulative rankings, but who cares . . . I just had a blast kayaking in another country with great people. The global kayaking community rocks! We live in different places, paddle different styles, speak different languages, but it is all the same tribe and it’s amazing how we take care of each other! Thanks Rob and everyone else for your amazing generosity!” Tim Cornish: “The main thing I remember apart from the rapids, the amazing valley and the great atmosphere at the overnight stop was Clive Curson’s tactics to avoid being last in the elapsed-time start the next day. As we were approaching the finish of the first day Clive pulled into the bank just before the finish, jumped out of the boat and ran to talk to the time UMKO 50 Years keepers to make sure we were more than 30mins behind the leaders. I learnt later that if we had gone off last in the elapsed time we would have probably paddled the whole of day two on our own as all the batches were going off before the 30 minutes elapsed time.” Charles Mason wasn’t as astute, arriving one race at the first day finish 29mins and 50secs after the leader. He left the second day start stone last after all the batches had gone, followed by the leaders in elapsed time. He paddled the whole day on a bony Umko in blistering heat by himself. “I got to Old Campsite not having seen anothe r paddler all day!” Chris Greeff found all his races memorable, but two wins and a walk stand out: - The win with Lance Park especially as it was against Tony Scott and Rory Pennefather. - The win with Tim Cornish, as we ripped our deck totally during a swim at Washing Machine. We shipped so much water we could not go through any waves. Then Tony Scott and Dave McCormack wrapped their boat on flat water – handing us the win. Our boat was in such bad shape we had to portage Goodenoughs weir. Tim remembers the swim as being at Whirlpool and having his prolonged by Greeff’s desperate lunge for the surface: “My win with Chris was quite a lucky win from what I remember. We were racing at the front on day two with Scott /McCormack I think and at Whirlpool we took a swim. For those that don’t know it this is not a nice place to swim and the boat, Chris and I were underwater for a long time. I think Chris inadvertently kicked me back down as I was getting near the surface. Anyway we recovered the boat. The front deck was in bad shape, full of holes. We then took off on the relatively flat section and managed to catch Scotty and Dave before No Name Rapid. As we caught them they somehow managed to wrap their boat around a random boulder in the middle of nowhere. Had this not happened they would have beaten us for sure as we had to stop and empty three or four times between there and the finish due to the holes in our deck.” (Scotty says they have the wrong paddling partner: “Dave and I never swam. It was while paddling with Paddy Quinlin. With a comfortable lead we cracked open the nose on a relatively minor rapid above No Name. Chris and Tim passed us on one of our many emptyings to the finish”). Good to know even Chris once joined the long walk brigade “We wrapped at washing machine on a practice run and had a 4 hour walk out of the valley.” One year the nose of Dave Lang Dawid Walker and Chris Crayfish Greeff’s boat crossed the finish line in third place! So why were they looking so glum? Well, they were back on the bank between No.5&6 and No.8, “Walking and Chrissing” disconsolately. The back 17ft of their boat was somewhere under Pinnacle Rock with those other crayfish. Only the NOSE of their boat came third. “To this day we can’t explain what happened” says Dave, but their boat disappeared and only 4ft of the nose re-appeared. Herman Chalupsky and Tim Cornish had also wrapped, smashing the front of their boat, but leaving a good 17ft-plus untouched. Dave again: “They had more bargaining power than us so took our nose and rammed it onto the remains of their boat, wrapped it with duct tape and off they went” to finish the race. (Wonder if the 4th-placed guys thought of measuring their boat to see if it exceeded maximum length?). 92