Monday, 17 August 2009

Eddystone Challenge - 15th August 2009

This race is billed as a 28 mile round trip from Plymouth Harbour out round the Eddystone Lighthouse. It is organised by the mayflower offshore rowing club. My GPS track on the day showed the race to be more like 26.

When we turned up we were not sure if the organisers would go for the lighthouse route, or the poor weather alternative up the Tamar. However the forecast wasn't as bad as it had been and conditions were about a F4 SW with a few feet of swell. Still, this is about the limit of safety for the event and with a 3hr cut off at the light, it was going to be tough.

I did manage to get around the light - last kayaker to do so along with a few others and a couple of rowing boats. We were a few hundred meters short of the light at the official cut off, but they let the group I was in go round. Our case was pleaded by Yankee 6 (the yacht stationed at the light) that could see us clearly. In the end only about 7-8 kayaks out of the 30 that started made the cut-off, the rest were turned back.

The paddle out was hard work, I kept up a reasonable rhythm but this didn't yield a decent speed because of the headwind and occasional slamming off the steeper waves. Using my GPS I was maintaining about 4 - 4.4 mph whereas on the flat I would reckon to paddle nearer 6.

I was looking forward to the return run expecting to be able to surf a bit, but being a tired by then I couldn't maintain speed to catch many waves and my boat handling skills didn't feel comfortable when I did. We were going a bit faster on the return, more like 5+ mph but I would have hoped for more. Then about 5 miles out, one wave did broach me and my attempted support strokes with wing paddles didn't work, I capsized, rolled myself out of the boat and ended up swimming. However my "buddy" (Glen Parry) and I had stayed together and I called him over and he got me back in my boat with no other assistance needed.

Not having swum in anger for years I was mighty pee'd off, and my lack of discipline showed when I realised I was no longer holding my paddle and it was nowhere to be seen. My hat had also come off, and I saw it a few yards away and swam to it.... another no-no. I struggled to then swim back to my boat to complete the rescue as the raft was being blown downwind. I completed the race in a time of about 6 hours and 15 minutes [6:17:27 official time] with my spare paddles with no further problems, very humbled and a pair of all carbon Bracsa VIII wings the lighter.

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