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Sea Kayak Race – Oban (2013)

Oban, Scotland.

August 2013


Patrick & Deano in 2012 - courtesy of Stephen Lawson

Patrick & Deano in 2012 – courtesy of Stephen Lawson

In 2012 I participated in the Oban Sea Kayak Race with Patrick Winterton. We entered the race in the “doubles” category, and came first out of 2.

In 2013 I was back. The original plan had been for me to team up with Patrick again, but this was to change.

Patrick had only recently returned from his historic sea kayaking trip, (in a double with Olly Hicks), from the Shetland Isles to Norway. Known as the “Shetland Bus Route”, from the days of the Second World War, this crossing had never been made by sea kayaks. Many had tried, but Patrick and Olly were the first to succeed. (Read all about it at http://www.kayaksonshetlandbus.org)

Oban Sea Kayak Race 2013 start line

Oban Sea Kayak Race 2013 start line

So having done this awesome trip in a double sea kayak, Patrick fancied doing the Oban Sea Kayak Race as a solo.  Fortunately for me, Patrick’s wife, Cathy, fancied having a go at the 20km course, so we teamed up and entered the race, using the double kayak that Patrick and Olly had just paddled to Norway in. 

The only tech spec I can give you about the boat is that it was yellow, very big, had a pointy bit at each end, and when empty, it weighed in at a massive 80Kg!  This kayak, (or maybe should say “container ship”), was designed for expeditions and not racing, as we were very soon to find out.So having done this awesome trip in a double sea kayak, Patrick fancied doing the Oban Sea Kayak Race as a solo.  Fortunately for me, Patrick’s wife, Cathy, fancied having a go at the 20km course, so we teamed up and entered the race, using the double kayak that Patrick and Olly had just paddled to Norway in. 

The only tech spec I can give you about the boat is that it was yellow, very big, had a pointy bit at each end, and when empty, it weighed in at a massive 80Kg!  This kayak, (or maybe should say “container ship”), was designed for expeditions and not racing, as we were very soon to find out.

Oban Sea Kayak Race - Deano & Cathy

Oban Sea Kayak Race – Deano & Cathy

It was a real privilege getting to use this boat, after it had just made such an awesome trip.  However, taking it on a wee 20km paddle was a bit like swimming a length of your local swimming pool in Captain Matthew Webb’s bathing suit, or walking down to the local shops in Sir Edmund Hilary’s boots!

With Cathy in the back, (I think that is the stern?), and me at the front, (the other pointy bit), we made our way towards the front of the start line.  The fog horn blew and we were off.  Within a few strokes we realised, (as did every boat within 20 metres of us), that we had a problem with the steering.  I was supposed to be doing this with a rudder control between my knees, but was failing miserably.  Fortunately, the steering could also be done by the rear paddler, so Cathy took over.  At this point, I’m not sure if she was any more successful than I was, and after a few seconds, we decided to let everyone around us head off.  (We wanted to give them a sporting chance, before we sped past them later in the race.  In fact, we never saw any of them again, until the barbeque that evening!)

After a few minutes of paddling we made a team decision.  It was a lovely day to be on the water, so why rush it.  Let’s enjoy ourselves.

Patrick giving us a bit of encouragement for the final sprint

Patrick giving us a bit of encouragement for the final sprint

Over the next 20Km, we overtook a handful of boats, coming 58th out of 80.  I would like to boast about the fact that we came 5th in our “doubles” category, but when I do, I then hear Cathy’s voice pointing out that there were only 5 kayaks in our category.  I like to say that it was the taking part that counted, but can then feel Patrick’s eyes bore through me when I say this.  What I will say is that although we may not have been as fast as last year, I had a fantastic day, met some wonderful people, and who knows, if I haven’t let the team down too badly, I may even be back again next year!

Our time for the race was 2 hours, 34 minutes, and 23 seconds.  Only 20 minutes slower than last year.  OK so the conditions were much calmer this year than last, but I won’t tell anyone if you don’t.

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