UMKO ’98 by John Carlyon
Despite the Umko being just two weeks (a bit soon) after Dusi, a bit low, a bit expensive, a bit terrifying (depending on who you are and who your partner is), and more than a bit hot, a small contingent of Alex Wasps die-hards turned out at the start amongst the surprisingly good field of about 140 boats. This seemed to prove the theory that you either do Umko or you don’t – come what may.
The river level at Hella-hella bridge was almost dead on 1 metre (3.3 feet) on the pillar, less than last year but more than the Hella-hella race in December. The mercury level was a different matter though – even at the start it was high and rising fast. Cooling off in the river before setting off was mandatory.
Andrew and John Edmonds got off to a good start but decided to cool off again at no.l for the benefit of the TV camera. John had a brush with an unfriendly rock which slowed them up somewhat after that. Owen Hemingway and WB Price roared off in a windmill of paddle blades at the front of their batch only to discover their line blocked by the rescue effort for Travers Wilkinson in the Approaches. They opted for the biggest hole instead and did some cooling off as well. Later Owen came ‘howling’ past the TV camera at no. “4 1/2”. Meanwhile Pete and Dave Edmonds pioneered a new route down the left of 5&6… “Ignorance is bliss” said Pete. John Carlyon and Penny Meakin did some structural testing on the Accord at no 4 with a dry run down the big drop on the left of the pinnacle! Pete and Dave, and Brian Peckett and Fred also did some crayfishing along the way and John and Penny stopped for a swim at their favourite spot “Nemesis rapid” – the one after House Rock with the black rock face.
By the time Josephines’ bridge came up we were all feeling the effects of the phenomenal heat and splashing oneself hardly helped at all. Brian stopped with a sudden urge to feed the fish somewhere above Josephines – which is about where the outboard motor on our Accord (Penny) started spluttering and it had to run on the reserve (me). However all of our spirits were lifted by seeing Charmaine Hemingway under the bridge shouting encouragement.
The overnight stop was convivial and laid-back with surviving the heat the main objective. Nearly everyone could be found wallowing in the river like hippos all afternoon.
The second day was fairly uneventful except for Andrew and John making up a lot of time with a blistering pace. A few swims were had, and rapids renamed; “Blue Movie Rapid” being one (Owen), and club members featured on TV again. All finished OK despite further withdrawals from the race from the rest of the field and a good time was had by all.