Rock’n’Roll Highlights [33]

Photos by Jan Murrell, story by a Correspondent

Paddling Blues

Terry Prosser’s Paddling Technique session drew a large gathering eager to learn from a leading sprint paddling coach. Terry was blunt in his assessment of what constituted a good paddle; propeller blades were infinitely more efficient that ‘flats’, short shafts were preferable, and unfeathered paddles, well…. the serious paddler wouldn’t even think about one! Not surprisingly, depression descended upon those watching who were clutching long, unfeathered flat-bladed paddles.

But there was more to come. Despite some knowledgable heckling from Laurie Ford, Terry argued forcibly that a ‘high’ power style was not a liability in strong cross winds and that the ‘low’ sea-paddler’s technique in this situation was unnecessary. Terry then rubbed more salt into sea-paddlers wounds by stating that his young charges, atop their magnificent K1’s, could handle strong cross winds, heavy seas, everything…!

As the gloomy crowd dispersed there were mixed feelings; some cursing the day they had ever heard the name ‘Terry Prosser’, others wondering why on earth they had purchased heavy, ponderous sea kayaks when it appeared that K1’s could do the job just as well and twice as fast! Summing up the feelings of many, one prominent club official was heard to say “maybe bloody Jim Croft isn’t mad after all!”

Yacht’s Not

A large crowd gathered along the rock platforms of Jervis Bay to witness six hopeful kayaks line up for the inaugural running of the Mini-America’s Cup. All the boats were equipped with deck-mounted sailing rigs, with the exception of one ‘joke’ entrant, a shy but charismatic stranger by the name of John, who boasted nothing but a large hand-held umbrella. The course was a simple one; the fleet would run northwest, around the ‘buoy’ (Andrew Eddy’s precisely positioned Arctic Raider) and then head north east to finish at the entrance of Honeymoon Bay.

The starting gun sounded, the crowd roared, and the sailors feverishly began the task of assembling their rigs – the first competitor to reach full erection having an obvious advantage! But skulduggery was afoot! Mark Pearson, brashly over-confident before the race, found his control line had been sabotaged. Unsure of who had been the culprit (but was that a knowing smirk on Doug Fraser’s face?), the furious ex-Editor let fly a tirade of abuse in the general direction of his competitors, only ceasing when they were out of earshot. In the end coming last was just too much for Mark so he took a short cut and bypassed the last marker.

John Foley and his almost-winning rig

Within minutes it became obvious that the impossible was happening. Much to the crowd’s delight, John’s kayak, it’s umbrella proudly held aloft and pointing the way, had hit the front, cheekily pulling away from the grim-faced John Wilde and his $2,000 NASA-designed kevlar/carbon Wing Sail. Further back, old-salt Norm Sanders had his gaff-rigged Classic moving well but not yet challenging the surprise leader. Surprisingly, Doug Fraser’s much vaunted Pittarak was at this stage wallowing pathetically and running second from last!

But were was the marker buoy? As the fleet approached the half way mark there was still no sign of the usually reliable Mr Eddy. A minute later a cry rang out as his cleverly camouflaged green Arctic Raider was sighted some 500 metres north of the correct position (“how was I to know that wind causes drift?” excused the Advanced Proficiency qualified Mr Eddy at the race de-briefing). However, Mr Eddy’s shocking lapse was greeted with relief by the red-faced hi-tech boats – the second leg would now require the field to track directly east across wind to finish inside Honeymoon Bay, conditions known not to favour umbrella-powered kayaks!

And so it proved. The mood of the crowd changed to disappointment as slowly but the surely the grim-faced John Wilde, the slick Norm Sanders and the smirking Doug Fraser overhauled the plucky umbrella hero.

John Wilde and his winning rig

Some minutes later it was all over. Screaming “aaahh’m the Man, aaaah’m the Man” and High-Fiving everyone in reach, John Wilde cruised into Honeymoon Bay for Line Honours to deafening jeers. Next came Doug Fraser, who, having somehow willed his mediocre Pittarak past President Sanders, chose to celebrate second placing by making obscene gestures to the hostile crowd. Blown off course, poor John the Umbrella Man was forced to cross the line under hand-paddling power and was reluctantly disqualified by the Judging Panel.

But then more controversy. The frenzied and distasteful celebrations of Wilde and Fraser were short lived when they were quietly informed of Race Rule 45 b)i), “at race end, all competitors must be able to complete a full eskimo roll with sailing rig in upright position”.

Competitors and the errant marker buoy

Again grim-faced with concentration, the macho pair dutifully capsized but, to the crowd’s delight, failed miserably to right their kayaks. They surfaced, bedraggled, noses streaming and clinging miserably to their upturned vessels – their only hope now a similar failure by the third-placed Sanders. But our wily President, as always seizing his chance to both humiliate others and gain personal glory in front of an audience, performed a perfect Pawlata to win the magnificent First Prize – a jumbo-size Greg Norman Golf Umbrella!

Propeller Repeller

Following the Terry Prosser session, those paddlers equipped with ‘propeller’ paddlers could be seen licking their collective lips at the thought of taking on the antiquated ‘flats’ in a true test of blade efficiency – the inaugural Tug of War! But the ladies event didn’t quite go as expected – the crowd were stunned into silence as the powerfully-built and propeller-bladed Jeanette Mill was towed backwards by flat-bladed and lighter opponents in consecutive match-ups. The ladies event eventually going to the energetic and anatomically correct Margie.

In fact, so complete was poor Ms Mill’s humiliation, the administrators were kept busy re-drafting the men’s competition as hordes of ‘propeller-bladers’, desperate to protect their fragile ego’s, withdrew from the event! In the wash-up, an entertaining and hard fought men’s competition was won by Matt (Horse Power) Turner with a very large flat-bladed paddle.

Footnote; In moments of high drama before the event, punters favourites David Winkworth and Arunas Pilka refused to compete after organisers failed to meet their demands for ‘appearance fees’.

Cut and Thrust!

Despite the Figurehead Race being billed as a race displaying female figureheads, the race start saw menfolk of various sizes draped unflatteringly over the bows, their shapely posteriors exposed to the lascivious gaze of their opportunistic female teammates. As predicted, the event was tough from the very start, with obvious heavy contact and verbal sledging as the six kayaks sped out towards the marker buoy. The turn round the marker was particularly rugged, with several kayaks colliding and a male rider injured. He later reported “as we rounded the turned I felt severe pain and turned to find the sharp end of a Spectrum embedded in the back of my thigh, I pulled it out, staunched the bleeding with my hat, and told my partner to keep going ….”. This team (led by Jeannette Mill) went on to win the event in a tight finish. The Spectrum paddler, ‘tough as teak’ Jan Murrell, was unrepentant “OK, so the wimp got a flesh wound .. so what! He should thank his lucky stars I wasn’t paddling a Pittarak – he’s still able to have kids isn’t he…!

Turned Off

Over the weekend, many paddlers took the opportunity to paddle Dave Winkworth’s all new sea-kayak, the Gimlet. Although all agreed the boat was obviously a true ocean craft and an absolute flier, several exhausted test-paddlers had to be carried back to their tents after attempting to turn the straight-running Gimlet into the wind. Catching up with Mr Winkworth as he worked out in his personal gym, our Flotsam reporter followed up on the story.

“Look, that’s utter bullshit”, grunted a pumped-up and sweaty Mr Winkworth, “with the correct technique and body position the Gimlet will turn beautifully and with hardly any effort at all! Believe me, strength has got nothing to do with it, those blokes just didn’t know how to paddle her ….. now pass me that 100kg dumbbell would you …”