The Umko Book

The book has been published.

All 300 copies were given to paddlers in the 50th race in March 2016 and to the sponsors (notably STIHL) who paid to make the book happen.

The book is online at joomag.com so all can access it. Find it here . You could even have joomag print you a hard copy if you like.

Meantime, this site has most of the rough copy sent in by all you good people. Search for your contribution under your name or surname and feel free to post additions, changes, suggestions and denials in the comments – or by email to pete@sheila.co.za.

Although the paper book is now ‘cast in stone’ like Moses’ tablets, the ebook can always be fixed, improved, updated, fudged.

Add your own story – new or old. Tell us about “Your Umko” in the COMMENTS below.

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“50 Years of the Umko 1966 – 2016” This is a fun record of some wonderful adventures enthusiastically told. Its not that paddlers exaggerate – they just remember big.

 

2017 STIHL Umko

STIHL UMKO 2017 – John Oliver’s report

Just over 200 paddlers took part this year.

Day one was hot and sunny with the river at around 1.3m. There was a 100% finish rate for the day despite some damage here and there. Hank McGregor and Lee Furby won the day 43 seconds ahead of Thomas Lovemore and Clinton Cook with Murray Starr and Stu MacLaren lying third less than a second later. Thus the second day started with essentially no real advantage to anyone.

Day two was cloudy and cool with rain in the hills and the river a bit lower at about 1.25m. The 100% finish of day one was a thing of the past with especially rapid No.5&6 taking a heavy toll. (edit: Leaders McGregor and Furby swam here).

At the end of the day it was new winners for the Umko with Murray Starr and Stu MacLaren first at Josephines bridge followed 37 seconds later by Thomas Lovemore and Clinton Cook still in second place and Hank and Lee third just 6 seconds further back.

Marc Germiquet won the singles from Hennie Roos and Ric Whitton, Colin Simpkins and Hayley Nixon were first Mixed and Kirsty Fox and Sarah Robinson were the only woman’s finishers in 41st place overall.

Jeff Cawood on river safety

Following a pretty sobering incident at Umko’s infamous rapid No.5&6 this weekend I had one of those epiphany moments that I hope other paddlers could benefit from.

Rob Hill has been banging on about swift water rescue courses for ages and how important it is to make paddlers capable of rescuing other paddlers. This scenario played itself out on Sunday and without some of those skills we would be one paddler short this morning.

Coincidently this incident took place in one of the big rapids but statistically that is quite rare. Short of lining the banks with marshals we have got to be more capable of saving each other when things go wrong. In a scenario where every second counts it’s critically important to have hands-on experience which does not happen without first-hand practice.

The other thing that surprises me is how many paddlers will spend a lot of money on a new boat and paddles and then scrimp on their pfd and helmet. That is until they have some good down-time on a big rapid, then the first thing they prioritise is extra buoyancy!

Without a high proportion of rescue-competent paddlers in every race field it is a matter of time before it all ends in tears.

I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to witness those skills saving someone’s life!

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Charlie Mason’s 50th finish!! The 30-and-over boys gather round to congratulate him. That’s a whole lotta man-years right there! Centuries!

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Umko 2017 Charles 50_4 FIFTY finishes! That’s insane. And wonderful.

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And an early report from the ever-wide-awake Jennie Dallas reporting on the invading fleet from behind the boerewors curtain:

*UMKOMAAS RIVER MARATHON 18 / 19 MARCH 2017 – FEEDBACK /*

*GAUTENGERS AT UMKOMAAS*

There were only 125 boats on the results of the Umko Marathon which took place weekend 18 / 19 March 2017, adding up to 75 K2’s and 49 K1’s with over 70 paddlers being Gautengers! It was delightful to note that the Female winning team on this Umkomaas river race were our Gauteng ladies – Kirsty Fox and Sarah Robinson (ERK/DABS) who finished as 37th K2, in a time of 5 hours 29 minutes over the two days! Well done – that’s called flying the Gauteng flag!!

They were in fact the only ladies team to finish the event – although there was a female KZN sweep noted on the results, as F2 – in a K1.

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Plus Copper’s Corner –

A report from our very own Secret-Turry Generaal

That guy Murphy has been messing with the river levels again.

The Umko has been in flood for 5 weeks.

Those who had been brave enough to enter early, had rushed out to buy bigger lifejackets, extra splashcovers, anti-depressants, pre-race laxatives and a lot of alcohol.

All for naught. Some joker had pulled the plug.

Come race day the river had dropped to just over 1.2 metres, an ideal level for boat manufacturers. The river was full enough to send you down the slightest drop at a rate of knots, whilst, at the same time, baring its teeth, causing most of us to feel like a pin ball at the bottom of many of the rapids. Very few were spared the sound of grinder on fiberglass at the overnight stop.

Hank MacGregor and Lee Furby managed to pull a 40 second advantage over the Starr/MacLaren and Cook/Lovemore chasing boats after the first day, from Josephine’s to Riverside.

As with many of the multi-day races in this country, the slower paddlers were set off before the elapsed time paddlers, allowing the field to concertina near the finish. This is done mainly to keep John Oliver on his toes, as he is forced to record multiple results in a very short space of time, but also to ensure that the hot water in the showers runs out at the country club with no chance of heating up in time for a second sitting.

Whilst there are certain advantages to having the slower paddlers leave first, there are also a number of disadvantages. The main one being that the racing snakes become entwined with the plonkers and part-time ornithologists as they hurtle towards fame and glory. This is not much of a problem if it happens on flat water, as the only downside is having to climb a number of hefty waves. A few profanities, muttered under ones’ breath usually absolves the perpetrator of any wrongdoing.

If, however, the encounter takes place in the middle of a large rapid, there is often a less favourable outcome. Especially when the snake is travelling at terminal velocity and the slower paddler is travelling at zero, stuck across the only gap available down the torrent. When this happens at number 5 on the Umko (the most hectic of them all), and happens to the leading two boats in the field, all hell breaks loose. How to ruin a Sunday morning dot com.

Murray Starr had broken the long standing family tradition of never pulling in a race, ever, and had managed to snatch the lead (with Stuart MacLaren) from Hank and Lee, who were biding their time, sitting a few boat lengths behind, as they approached number 5. The Cook/Lovemore duo, having anticipated the lack of hot water at the country club, had elected to rinse off in number 1, and were out of contention.

Murray and Stu had to do some nifty paddle work to avoid the boat that was stuck in the rapid. This caused Hank to spin out and get himself stuck under a rock, facing upstream. With his head half under the water, and disturbing flashes of coming second in races when he was younger flashing through his head, he thought that he had “bought it”. Fortunately the cockpit rim cracked after nearly a minute, and the boat extricated itself.

A massive chase saw them catch up to within a hundred metres or so towards the end, but the effort had been too much. Salt was rubbed into the wound by the freshly rinsed off pair of Cook and Lovemore overtaking them in the last rapid.

Hank’s resigned comment at the end of the race was “That’s the Umko”.

Murray Starr becomes only the second paddler to share the experience of winning an Umko as his father has done. Richard Starr won the race in 1986 with a phenomenally talented partner.

The only other father/son winners have been Paul and Oscar Chalupsky. Probably the best, and second best, paddlers in the world, ever (if only Paul could have lifted his game a little).

The paddlers in the 125 boats that finished the race will have war stories to dine out on for the entire year. There were very few grumpy faces at the end.

My surfski paddling partner, doing her first Umko, was like a turbo charged rock of Gibralta. She apologized for one or two bad lines that I took, but was otherwise a legend.

Performance of the day must, however go to Charlie Mason who received his badge for completing his 50th Umko.

– Colin Simpkins – CanoeSA Secretary-General

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UMKO 2017…….. the radical test

Paddlers, for those that got through both days of this past weekend’s epic Umko Canoe Marathon challenge, well done. Once again the river had its say and yes, it was the day two section from Hella Hella to #8 that took its toll on paddlers and craft. The river level was such that no rapid had a sneak, it was all main line which tested craft & paddler alike.

Appropo the various messages and and phone calls received insofar as the action / incidents at #5&6, well it was a busy spot on Sunday. Long story short, there were two paddler rescues and two craft recoveries going on, both sides of Pinnacle Rock, which coincided with the time when some of the elite group came through. Due to the assessed risk and safety factors, the rapid was closed for a short ten minute period to allow for the rescue & recoveries to take place, thereafter re-opened.

In terms of the rest of that testy section from Hella Hella to #8, most of the numbered, and House Rock rapids had their fair share of action, but yes #5&6 certainly was the most active. FYI, four paddlers had to be taxied out from #5&6 to below #8 on the two-man inflatable crocs, having got their broken craft out the river and stripped of all cables, metal, seats, etc….

To KCC, Rob, Ernie & Terry and their teams, well done hosting yet another safe, successful and enjoyable event… a true test of paddling.

In summary, the river safety team had some equipment attrition, i.e. broken Fluid sit-on plastic white water craft, two broken flat blade white water paddles and a destroyed safety rope – the latter during the mentioned #5&6 paddler/craft, rescue/recoveries. So if any of you have any plastic flat blade white water paddles you’re not using, we would welcome the donation. In fact an appeal to all of you is for funding support of the CanoeSA river safety & sweep team, for the races we attend and the courses we host… truly a worthy corporate CSi cause and investment in saving lives. For those in a position to, or keen to assist, please contact me for details and benefits.

In closing, remember, it’s all about safety first, safety always and NO compromise…..!

ROB HILL – CSA Safety Officer – www.canoesa.co.za  +27 (0) 83 636 1315 rob@swiftwaterx.com

2017 pre-Umko Croc Trip

Sheila their Second and 4X4 driver said the boys verdict was “This was our best day on the Umko in crocs”.

Bobbing about in their Umko wheelchairs:

Pre-Umko 2017

Centuries of Umko experience seen pottering about readying their Umko wheelchairs to float downriver. Rob Davey & Ernie Alder in the background; Mike Frizelle & Dave Gillmer pomping:

Old Umko Okes

 

 

Sponsorship of ‘UMKO 50yrs’

Umko 50yrs Title Page.jpg

Total cost R130 000 for 300 copies.

STIHL made it all possible by sponsoring the book to the tune of R50 000 (in addition to their generous sponsorship of the race itself). Thank you STIHL !!

Stihl Logo

Eleven paddlers gave R1 000 each. Their names are recorded on the title page: Pete Swanepoel, Charles Mason, Colin Wilson, Allie Peter, Duncan Paul, Willem van Riet, Colin Simpkins, Hugh Bland, Chris Watts, Rowan Rasmussen, Ernie Alder.

Rob Davey then got a lot of advertising income from these generous sponsors:

Kingfisher Canoe Club

Dabulamanzi Canoe Club

Traderplus swing ticket printers

Bridgestone Tyres

The Brand Brewery – Jon Ivins designed the book and provided many of the photographs

Supa Quick Tyres Mega City Umlazi

These sponsors also joined the above as Friends of the Umko

  • Erics Canoes
  • Waltons Stationers
  • Bo’s Plant & Tool Hire
  • Maxpaddle
  • Raw Power
  • Pope’s Canoe Centre
  • Hansa Pilsener
  • Add Resins
  • Hella Hella Outdoor Centre
  • Isotonic Game

 

 

2016 Umko

McGregor wins 7th Umkomaas title in the 50th Umko – News24
Hank McGregor and Jasper Mocke
McGregor partnered with seasoned paddler but Umko first-timer, Jasper Mocke, to take on the 50th edition of what’s considered the world’s roughest and wildest K1/K2 river canoe marathon.The duo finished the 2-day race in a total time of 4:13.11.
Dave Hamilton-Brown and Wayne Jacobs finished second in 4:15.24, with Murray Starr and Owen Gandar in third in 4:22.01.The Umkomaas Canoe Marathon is notorious for its unpredictability and boat-breaking rapids. Paddlers never know what they’re in for as there are no dams to govern the water releases. Through the Umkomaas Valley, near Richmond, KZN, the river flows fast and strong, providing superb excitement for white water rafters and massive challenges for fragile fibreglass K1 and K2 racing boats.This year, little rain fall in the days leading up to the race meant paddlers were faced with a low 1.3m water level, requiring immense technical skill and concentration to navigate successfully through the ragged rocky river.

The race started on a more manageable section of the Umkomaas River, with paddlers racing 35km from Josephine’s Bridge to Riverside. McGregor and Mocke were the first boat through the first rapid. They held onto the lead, finishing Day 1 in 2h11m, three minutes ahead of second-placed Hamilton-Brown/Jacobs team.

Day 2, 32km from Hella Hella to Josephine’s Bridge, was the toughest, presenting the real test of big rapids and leading to the most broken boats. The experienced McGregor and strong Mocke expertly navigated the low level river, with the duo finishing Day 2 in 2h01m, just one minute behind Hamilton-Brown/Jacobs who finished in 2h00m but the McGregor/Mocke team’s 3-minute lead on Day 1 saw them claim the overall title.

Said McGregor, “The Umko is the only race in the world where paddlers don’t sprint off the start line because they’re actually scared of what’s up ahead. Everyone is nervous on the course. I’m stoked to win my seventh title with Jasper Mocke, who was paddling his first. It was an awesome fun day out!”

TOP 10 RESULTS – 2016 STIHL UMKOMAAS CANOE MARATHON

1. Hank McGregor / Jasper Mocke – 4:13:11

2. Dave Hamilton-Brown / Wayne Jacobs – 4:15:24 – 1st Sub-vet

3. Murray Starr / Owen Gandar – 4:22:01

4. Mark Perrow / Piers Cruickshanks – 4:22:44 – 1st Vet

5. Don Wewege / Kevin Musgrave – 4:23:32

6. Lee Furby / Grant Van der Walt – 4:25:40

7. Emanuel Zaloumis / Hamish Lovemore – 4:27:56 – 1st U18

8. Jacques Theron / Jen Theron – 4:28:04 – 1st Mixed Double

9. Warren Valentine / Marc Germiquet – 4:30:16

10. Andrew Neal / Stuart Waterworth – 4:36:26

Remembering the first Umko

The first Umkomaas Canoe Marathon took place on December 16, 1966. Fifty years ago, it was a very different event, with 40 paddlers setting off on a three-day, 112km adventure that started at Josephine’s Bridge and ended on the south coast where the river meets the Indian Ocean.

In those days, there were no seconds, sponsorship or spectators – just a solitary timekeeper driving a World War II Jeep backed up by a vintage short-base Land Rover and other vehicles carrying paddlers’ tents, dry clothes and food provisions. In these days, before life jackets and helmets were made compulsory, and before cell phones had been invented, single canoes were required to paddle in pairs for safety reasons. Most of the entries were singles with a few doubles.

The inaugural race was won by legendary KwaZulu-Natal paddler, Charles Mason, who raced his 50th Umko on this the 50th Umko, and finished his 49th.

CHAPTER ONE – The Idea

About the pioneers who sought a new type of race on a new river

“We paddled quietly, afraid to speak for fear of breaking the wild peace”
Ian Player 1952
“I thought of how privileged I was to witness this event.”
Rob Gouldie 1961
“Nothing could take our minds off the beauty of the valley with its magnificent cliffs and continuous rapids”
Charles Mason 1965

READ A FORETASTE OF THE BOOK WE’RE PUBLISHING FOR THE 50th RUNNING OF THE UMKO IN 2016 – and tell us YOUR story too (send to pete@sheila.co.za)

In the nineteen fifties and the early sixties canoeing in South Africa was “The Dusi”, that iconic three-day race from Pietermaritzburg to the sea, started in 1951 and ideally suited to people who thought running with a canoe on your head was as good a way of getting downstream as paddling. And perhaps for Vaalies it was “The Vaal” started (we think) in 1955, and for Capies it was “The Berg”, started in 1962 and held over 240km of flat water in the Cape winter for polar bears who liked their river water flat and freezing. The Dusi, of course, parallel’d the much older Comrades Marathon, the famous footslog with the same beginning and endpoint.

But in Natal there was another breed of paddlers. People for whom sitting in your boat and shooting rapids was the ultimate thrill. These “paddling purists” hated the fact that they could beat someone on the water only to have them run past them on a new portaging “sneak” pathway recently discovered – or even specially cut through the valley bush. They started thinking: There’s got to be a better way than the embarrassment of scurrying about the Valley of a Thousand Hills with a canoe on your head causing mirth among normal non-paddling citizens.¹

THE SEARCH FOR NEW WATERS
A few of these paddlers of Kingfisher Canoe Club in Durban decided that instead of looking for new shortcuts they would look for new rivers. Rivers where they could launch their boats at the start of a race and pick them up again for the first time after the finish line. The search was on, and they headed south to where they had heard from famous former winners of the Dusi about a wild and wonderful river: The Umkomaas.

FIRST KNOWN UMKO TRIP – 1952

“We paddled quietly, afraid to speak for fear of breaking the wild peace that is only Africa’s. From the top of one of the green hills a man’s voice broke the silence with a plaintive tune, a woman took up the refrain and together they harmonised. The music was beautiful and I stopped to listen. This was the music of old Africa.”

On the 5th April 1952 Ian Player and Fred Schmidt paddled their home-made singles from Josephine’s Bridge to the sea at the village of Umkomaas on the South Coast. Theirs was a pure adventure trip, Player, having won the very first Dusi just four months earlier, using it to see if Schmidt would make a good Dusi partner. They had no intention of racing the river.

Find out what Fred’s favourite song was – and who he sang to . .

Fred Schmidt & Ian Player_cr_cr

A longer account of Player and Schmidt’s trip (from his book Men, Rivers and Canoes), will be here
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NEXT KNOWN UMKO TRIPS – EASTER WEEKENDS 1960 and 1961

“Rapid after rapid with unbelievable scenery as we paddled past kraantz after kraantz. We were totally stoked. Again we chose a suitable spot on the riverbank with plenty of driftwood for our campfire. We soon had a roaring blaze going. For supper we ate like Kings.”

Rob Gouldie, Peter Marriott, Dereck Antrobus, Don Cobbledick, Norman Dyer, Graham Hall, Peter Gladwin and Denny Sterling also paddled from Josephines bridge to the sea.

Rob Gouldie writes (in his wonderful book “Duzi Fever”):

“Peter Marriott’s Father Geoff had a trailer with a multiple rack . . . .

. . . many miles down river, stopping occasionally for a smoke break and to stretch the legs and ease our bums.

Trip Rob Gouldie Umko boats

They spent the night at Fishy Fish trading store (now known as Riverside Store) where they got uproariously drunk on their “half jacks of Cane, Vodka, Brandy and whatever the individual preference. The mixers were packets of Cool Aid topped up in a billycan of river water” and, as canoeists over the years have been known to do occasionally, they drank the whole trip’s supply in one night – plus some meths from their camping stoves! Then they caught a bus home.

Trip Fishy Fish Rob Gouldie Umko

The next year, Easter 1961:

“We chose an ideal spot opposite a gently flowing rapid and a flat sandy bank to pull our canoes on to. Behind this was a nice grassed area to camp on. The river must have overflowed its bank in the past as in receding it had left behind a plentiful supply of driftwood, bleached pearly white by the sun. Perfect for our camp fire.”

Trip Rob Gouldie Umko campfire

“For supper we ate like Kings, feasting on vacuum-packed braai chops, baked beans and potatoes wrapped in tin foil and cooked over hot coals. We washed the meal down with Castles cooled down in a cairn of river stones we had built in the riverbed.”

Trip Rob Gouldie Umko camp
Day three:
“We asked them if they would help carry our canoes around the waterfall . . . . we were inundated with more willing bearers than Dr. Livingstone and Stanley must have had. Watching them portage was sheer pleasure as we strolled along like gentlemen behind, admiring the countryside.“

Trip Rob Gouldie Umko Falls

They spent the next night at a church mission:
“Then horror of horrors, the missionary asked whether we would like to sing one of our hymns. There was a hush of silence as the congregation eagerly awaited our rendition. We looked from one to the other. Sad to say not one of us knew the first words of any hymn and felt that “Barnacle Bill’ or “Mother McGinty” might not be suitable.”

The Lido Hotel . .  manager asked them to carry their canoes up the stairs to the pool terrace. . . . . I peered out from under my canoe and there I stood like a prize prick . .”

The manager then asked them to say a few words to the crowd. “My knees were trembling and I felt as though I had swallowed my Adams Apple. As I got going my nervousness left me and was replaced by verbal diarrhoea. I embellished my tale with what I hoped was poetic license (another name for bullshit).“

Gouldie’s account of the ’60 and ’61 trips (from his wonderful book ‘Duzi Fever’) will be in this chapter. – (Find out how Captain Honks rapid got its name!) –
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THE DECISIVE UMKO TRIPS – From 1965 leading up to the first race in 1966

“Some umfaans on the bank told us the name of the next big rapid, saying it was named for the sound of the boulders rolling underwater when the river was full: “Mpompomani”.

In 1965 Charles Mason, Barry Willan, Tom Howcroft, Peter Hammond, Colin Wilson, Ken ‘Tank’ Rogers and Hamish Gerrard were authorised by Kingfisher Canoe Club to seriously consider the Umkomaas as a new race venue.

The Umkomaas had been tripped in the time after Gouldie and before 1965. Many shorter (mainly two-day) trips had been undertaken, eg. from Deepdale to Hella Hella and from there to to Josephines’ Bridge.

The 1965 trip started with them all meeting at the Richmond Hotel from where they were going to proceed to Josephines to sleep under the bridge before setting off early the next morning.

Charles Mason takes up the story:

“We met a local farmer in the pub and over a few beers he kindly invited us all back to his farm for dinner and to sleep the night. This offer was gratefully accepted and at 9pm we all followed him in convoy to his farm. However he had obviously not sought nor obtained government permission as when we got there his irate wife told us in no uncertain terms that she did not think his offer was appropriate and suggested we leave forthwith. We all suddenly agreed among ourselves that Josephines Bridge actually seemed a far better idea, despite the light drizzle!”

(DAY TWO)
“Old hands by now, we set to our camping chores with gusto: A fertilizer bag would be filled with river water and propped up between rocks to allow the silt to settle (an early form of water purification, maybe?). This would serve as the basis for the tipple of choice: Brandy and lime juice. Mixed at a sufficient concentration it served to:
– Disguise the look (it was a similar colour to river water);
– Disguise the taste (you fortified it until it did);
– Contribute meaningfully to conversations related to the deeper meaning of life.

UMKO Trip 1965 Cobbeledick, Mason, _, _

Colin Wilson, Charles Mason, Dave Cobbledick & Hamish Gerrard on the south bank at Old Buck Rapid (Sept 1965).

(DAY THREE)
“Peter Hammond misjudged the strength of the flow and got sucked into the wave. Thrown out of his boat he managed to escape the stopper wave only by diving deep (fortunately in this instance he had no lifejacket!) and being pulled downstream by the underwater current. His boat, however, was held fast.” Find out what happened to the boat . . .

“Our third campsite was next to another unnamed rapid (to be named No Name Rapid in time to come!) in a well-protected glade of trees. This camp became the scene of a tragedy: The river rose half a metre and washed away some beers we had placed in a rock pool to cool down. Despite a careful search, we never did find them.”

UMKO Trip 1965 Below Waterfall

Dave Cobbledick, Peter Marriott, Colin Wilson & Hamish Gerrard on the south bank in the Whirlpool area (Sept 1965).

(DAY FOUR)
“I had heard of Rob Gouldie’s trip and his activities at the Lido Hotel in Umkomaas. So when I phoned the manager and he agreed to provide us with lunch on our arrival I was not surprised when he made one strict proviso: No boats in his pool!

OVERLAND
Charles goes on to tell about their overland trips scouting for campsites – and how Old Buck rapid got its name!

APPROVAL
“Back at KCC the announcement of our findings was met with . . . .

  • Find out in Umko – 50 years –

Charlie Mason’s account of the decisive trips that led to “The Umko” as we now know it – AND MUCH MORE – will be included in this opening chapter of “UMKO – 50 years”.

  • Read how Umko paddlers are actually rather fond of the Dusi, and how the Dusi King is “one of us”  *

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CHAPTER TWO – – – The Saga of the First Race

THIS CHAPTER IS ON THAT SPECIAL FIRST RACE IN 1966

– SEND US YOUR INPUT FOR THE BOOK: “THE UMKO”

to admin@sheila.co.za

Today’s paddlers might have been surprised, had they stood on the Josephine’s bridge that wet December of 1966 and watched the forty paddlers in the first race get underway to notice the absence of lifejackets and helmets. Their mothers may have tut-tutted at the shortage of hats and suncream. Less obvious would have been the scary fact that most of the paddlers were “racing blind” never having paddled on the Umko before!

Determined to give paddlers great value for money, Kingfisher supplied all food, logistics and accommodation at a R2-per-paddle entry fee. No seconding was needed – and anyhow, few seconds would have known where to go. The aim was a different experience, greater camaraderie, more wilderness – modelled on the trips the organisers had undertaken and enjoyed so much.

Find out:

Who was the 17yr old in the first race who paddled with Dusi legend Bob Templeton?

What Jimmy Potgieter had been up to the night before the race.

Who the schoolkid was who cycled from Park Rynie to watch the finish and ended up paddling many, many Umkos himself?

Most paddlers got to Riverside store that first day. The food trucks, however, did not. Only two vehicles had made the overnight stop – Ozzie Gladwin’s WW2-vintage Willys Jeep and Papa Chalupsky’s borrowed Landrover. In reliable and predictable Landrover fashion a side-shaft had snapped, leaving Papa Schultz with only front-wheel-drive.

Everyone hung around waiting for the promised kit, tents and food and drink to arrive – in vain. What did they eat?

Next morning the vehicles couldn’t get out under their own steam. How did they make it out?.

Next overnight stop . . .

The Chalupsky’s had their own tent and, in the established tradition of Dragon-baiting, . . .

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The last day included the famous waterfall, Kingfisher Falls. Everyone knew you had to portage around it and necks were stretched and ears strained to be sure to see it well ahead. The brothers Willan, though, decided on an unconventional approach: . . .

Most of the forty entrants finished the first Umko. One reason was probably that it did not include the rougher Hella Hella section. Another was they had no alternative! You finished the race or – what? No helicopters!

Paul Chalupsky & Jimmy Potgieter after coming 2nd in the first Umko tie the boat onto Papa Chalupsky's Borgward
Paul Chalupsky & Jimmy Potgieter after coming 2nd in the first Umko tie their boats onto Papa Chalupsky’s Borgward
Alan
You had to paddle with a partner. But Alan Harper finished alone . . .

The winners of that epic and historic first race were . . .

Prizegiving was held at The Lido Hotel and who were the popular winners of the Sportsmanship Prize?

SEND US YOUR UMKO STORIES AND PICTURES!

CONTACT admin@sheila.co.za