Shut up : go !
In this post i am going to continue developing my idea for a ‘RTA’ (Race to Alaska)* style event in UK waters. For now and with no better name i am thinking of the concept as the ‘SCR.UK’ which you can think of as either the Small Craft Race UK or South Coast Race UK. In this post i am going to begin to set the key themes of the mindset and attitude for the race. Right now i really think that sailing and paddlesports in the UK need something like a Race to Alaska : basically a challenging long distance race with minimal support and as few rules as possible.
What this race is in my concept is more like a Whitbread race for Dinghy’s or, as a Race to Alaska competitor delightfully put it “like the America’s cup for dirtbags”. Thus low cost but high on guts and improvisation. The Race to ALaska is a tough , unsupported endurance race for small craft over a long enough distance and a difficult enough course to pose a significant challenge to the small craft racer. Looking at the RTA course which is essentially the ‘inside passage’ from Washington state to Alaska it is an intrinsically difficult course with contrary currents, strongly tidal narrows and frequent heavy weather….and it is sailed, paddled and rowed by everything from cruising yachts down to paddle boards. Also from everything that i have seen its a visually stunning place and in most parts quite wild : more ‘like’ Scotland than anywhere else in these Islands.
Why i think that the south coast is the right venue is that it is both visually attractive while at the same time being tidally challenging . If the RTA has Seymour narrows then we must have Portland bill !. Also with the south coast there are plenty of places where the small craft sailor/paddler can put-in and anchor or even land on a beach and bivouac.
Boats (or craft) will launch (or sail from alongside) somewhere in the far west of Cornwall and will race the entire length of the South Coast to a port at the eastern end of the channel. As with the US events the rules will be very simple, in fact lets take a page direct from the RTA website and look at just 2 of their rules.
Rule 1: Get a boat without an engine
Are you a kayaker extraordinaire?
An ocean rower?
A paddler on a First Nation racing canoe?
Do you feel like yanking the engine out of your yacht and rolling the dice?
We’re okay with all of these – and most other wingnut ideas you might have. Just no engines- not even “just in case”.
Size of boat doesn’t matter and you can bring as many crew as you want as long as all of them are on for the whole race- no switching out. Route choice and boat selection are key strategies of R2AK. But remember:
Just because you can do something doesn’t make it a good idea.
You’re on your own out there, and if a rescue is even possible it could be days away – err on the side of caution.
Rule 3: Travel unsupported:
This means no support boats, no food drops, no guy you call for information or that other guy you hired to stand on the shore and hand you cups of Gatorade. The deal is that you can have help along the way, just nothing you pre-arranged and whatever you do has to be available to the other racers too.
Now briefly : what it isn’t .
1.What it isn’t, ie a ‘raid’ style event. Some readers will be familiar with the ‘Raid’ style events, for those that aren’t here is a quote from Wikipedia ”
This is a leisure pursuit combining sailing and rowing. It involves a fleet of small boats capable of being rowed and sailed, exploring a coastline or inland waterway over several days, often with some competitive element.
In describing raiding, the organiser of the 2010 & 2011 English Raids states; “The idea of making coastal voyages in company, in open boats powered by sail and oar, was given currency by the French group Albacore, led by Charles-Henri le Moing during the 1990s, starting in Portugal and Scotland… The word raid has slipped into English and lost its usual associations of pillage and destruction – to those who participate at least.”
Raiding has become increasingly popular amongst small-boat sailors, and this has fostered the development of raid-worthy boats. An example of the type is American whaleboat “Molly” crewed by The Henley Whalers.
Raiding is not only an enjoyable outdoor activity, it has been noted to promote family participation.
Ok so a raid is a nice kind of sailing and rowing rally for all the family to enjoy. At least one ‘Raid’ uses guard/rescue boats and mostly the Raid/Rally is a cruise-in-company……what i have in mind is nothing like this at all.
In contrast to the family/rally styled ‘Raid’ here is the Watertribe attitude :
“The WaterTribe Challenges are long, grueling races that are extremely demanding, both
physically and mentally. Entrants are encouraged to consult a physician to ensure that
they are in good health and can withstand the rigors that participation entails. The
physical demands of the race, combined with sleep deprivation, heat, cold, water,
dehydration, and exhaustion, often cause participants to become disoriented. Amnesia,
hallucinations, hypothermia, and other debilitating conditions are not uncommon. Such
effects can impair judgment, a condition especially dangerous for the solo paddler or
And finally : this is the kind of attitude i want to put across, taken directly from the Watertribe website.
“Let me try to explain this one more time. By entering any WaterTribe Challenge or event, you are agreeing that all the people, companies, and agents associated with the event owe you nothing nor do we owe you duty of care or service or any other duty. We promise you nothing. We do not and will not even try to make this event safe for anyone. This event is not safe for anyone. This is no joke. We won’t even try to warn you about every known danger or hazardous condition, whether we know about it or not. If we do decide to warn you about something, that doesn’t mean we will try to warn you about everything.
If we do make an effort to make some aspects of the event safer, we may not correct
other aspects, and we may even make matters worse! We and our agents may do things
that are unwise and dangerous. Sorry, we’re not responsible. We may give you bad
advice. Don’t listen to us. In short, ENTER AND PARTICIPATE IN THESE EVENTS
AT YOUR OWN RISK. And have fun!