Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

Axel Schoevers (Photo: A. de Krook) Name:
Axel Schoevers
Rijswijk, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Race

It was to be my return date to get to the Hull ferry, so I was not so sure if I would have enough time to enter the Swellies-Extreme Sea Kayak Slalom Time Trial on one of the biggest tides of the year.

Getting offered an unmarked Rockpool racing kayak by John Willacy to race in made me change my mind. Having not a clue of what I am getting myself into, and not used to a rudder, I was glad that this kayak also had a skeg. My first impression of this 'unnamed' kayak was of it's very dynamic active seating position. Seated in this kayak I wanted just to do one thing, go fast! More stable than I expected, I had no problems with getting back against the tide under the Menai Bridge pillars. So it's speed and forgiveness in rough water and on strong eddy-lines feel OK; no unwelcome surprises so far!

Now to the race. The starting time was carefully chosen for the strongest downstream current and that was it that got me nervous. Not the strength of the tide, but my ferry departure time... Tide and ferries wait for no one!

With one minute starting intervals, I was number 12 in line, Aled's next in line. Shooting through the bridge I was hit by an extremely strong gust of wind (spray flying) and immediately had difficulty getting around the first buoy. Not trying out and using the rudder proved to be a big mistake on rounding the buoys in this force 7, gusting 8/9?, wind. This is NOT a slalom kayak! Aled (with rudder) soon overtook me, but I felt good that I could keep up with him on the crossing to the Swellies island. I got the hang of it but my mind (and kayak) drifted just too much (or was it badly judging the strength of the current) that I missed the far Britannia Bridge pillar; probably disqualifying me from the race...

Anyway, I tried to go around it from downstream, no way in this current. Then to the finish line and without break heading back to the put-in. This proved to be the fun part, using the Anglesey side eddy line, breaking out into the main flow and racing towards the eddy behind the Swellies island. Hugging the Island, breaking into the flow again to ferry glide back to the Anglesey side, from there the big eddy brought me back to Menai Bridge. With a big 'leap' against the tidal drop between the left pillars I made it back. What a rewarding work-out.

Next started the other 'race': getting to my ferry in time. With half an hour to spare I made it.

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