CSCC Reports 2008: Eddystone Challenge - August 2008
Luis, Alex and I participated in the 'Eddystone challenge' organised by the Mayflower Offshore Rowing Club on 16th August 2008.
After a 5 hour drive down to Devon from London the previous day we camped at a site in Brixton (just outside Plymouth). The campsite was quite nice, but our sleep was interrupted by noisy night time road resurfacing work nearby. Not ideal preparation for the long day ahead.
Due to foul weather (heavy rain and strong winds) the route of the challenge was changed so that instead of heading out to the lighthouse, we merely had to cross Plymouth Sound and up the Tamar and back again (approximately 20 miles in total).
The challenge was plainly designed more with gigs and whalers in mind and in our single kayaks it took the CSCC contingent 2 hours to reach the mid way point and by then we were already well behind all but two of the other kayakers and rowers. I had been troubled by weather-cocking and couldn't drop the skeg to improve my tracking and so was persuaded to abandon using my beloved inuit paddle (or 'plank' as the organisers were referring to it on channel 71) in favour of a Lendal. We still made little impression on everyone else and remained last in the race.
Paddling against the midpoint of a spring tide was - Luis asked me to put this in - 'excruciating' and it took us three hours to get as far as the marina (still some way short of the finishing point). We were tailed by a safety boat as we inched forwards. The final straw for me came when we were forced by a police boat to give up hard fought progress to allow a ship past and shortly afterwards Luis and I accepted a lift back from a RIB. I was now very tired and almost got minced by the RIB's engine as I waited to be picked up.
Alex gamely stuck it out on his own and was the last man home under his own steam. Several other kayakers in front of him had to be rescued in the Sound, so finishing the course was a real achievement. Alex's fortitude was not universally appreciated by the trip organisers who were (quite reasonably) keen to get off the water after 6 hours out in mostly unseasonally bad weather conditions.
The other participants in the event and the organisers were a jolly bunch (particularly the rowers), but it was a bonkers trip really. The course was fantastic from a scenic point of view, but the race element meant that I almost failed to notice. We didn't actually need shepherding by safety boats, as there was little risk of capsizing. I couldn't get out of my head that I would be much better off getting off the water, stretching my legs, having some food and drink, taking some photos and waiting for the tide to turn! That wouldn't have been an option if we'd had to paddle to Eddystone of course.
Our dinners at the Rose and Crown and the Sea Food Restaurant in the next village along from Brixton were both good. Definitely recommended.
I was glad that I saved a bit of energy for the drive home the following morning - we passed a completely burnt out Fiesta on the other side of the motorway.