My Avon Descent Experience by Roland


My 2013 Avon Experience  written by Roland

The Avon Descent for my family is a bit of a tradition and the girls know full well what to expect.

They also know it involves chocolate (need I say more).

Anyway after a mad pack up we arrived at Northam to register. I was hoping to see our beloved president testing the PFDs. My concern rose when I saw two mates from the Mandurah club testing PFDs. I hand my PFD over and they placed it in the testing tub to check if it would float to the correct level. To my shock it didn't float anywhere near high enough. I was in a state of panic. The boys carry on how they couldn't pass the PFD and there was a lot of head shaking from them. No PFD, no race! How would I find a PFD at 7.00pm on a Friday night in Northam? Not good…..

They then pull out the test case and open it up. To my surprise they had put a house brick in the bottom of the test case. How'd that get there?  Pure relief. Then I use a few interesting terms that would make a sailor blush and the boys fell about laughing at me.

I knew I was in for a good Avon.

First things first, I should explain my craft and who were my support crew (and I need a lot of support). The craft was a Finn Molokai which put me in the long plastic division. I did cop a fair amount of grief from Andy Hewlett for using a long plastic instead of a K1. My support crew was my wonderful wife Kristina and my daughters Anneka and Elena. Also Colin Sculley who was just great to have along for both Dallas and me. I can not thank him enough for his help.

Day One

We arrived on time but it was postponed due to fog which is very normal. But this time it was postponed to 10.00 instead of 8.45. This meant less recovery time at the end if you make it and a harder job and more pressure for many to make the cut-off time. Anyway I was grid 4, not that it meant much as it was only 10 seconds between grids. I think there were 12 grids and just over 300 paddlers. You do the maths.

Within the first km you hit Northam Weir and to describe of carnage would be an understatement.

Normally you hit the weir front on, slide down to the main channel and don't fall off. I counted over  ten boats struck on top of the weir so I tried the side shoot. By the time I got to the bottom the weir was clear. I missed all the fun.

The paddle to Katrine at low water is hard but can be a lot of fun as everybody is chatty and happy to be underway; unless you are in the front grids and then it's on for sheep stations. By this stage the fog had cleared and it was sunny and starting to get warm. For me the paddle to Katrine was hard as I bottomed out a few times. But I only had to get out of the boat once which is good for a low water year. So I was happy with my paddle to Katrine.

The Extracts Weir is the next stop and the halfway mark. I decided not to shoot the weir but dragged my boat around which allowed my support crew to fuel me up and a Swannie to tell me off for not eating all my sandwich (thank you Shirley). It was also a good decision as Extracts was too low for a clear run and there was plenty of carnage there too.

Now paddle around to Toodyay and the river starts to flow much more quickly as the channels are not as wide. So you are just having fun as you wizz along. Now for the famous ti-trees. These can be hell or a lot of fun. We have a secret weapon at Swan called Andy Hewlett. He is the Master of the Trees and I was lucky to do a few runs before the race. It helped. I only made one mistake and had to throw my boat over a log but that's other story…Once you come out of trees you've finished day 1.

Day 2- The Fun Bit

Colin drove me to the start line at 6.00am in the morning in thick fog. He pretty much pushed me into my boat. I had the last section of trees to get through and I made it easily. In other years I have had a few horror shows in this section. Once again thank you Andy, oh Tree Master.

And now for the valley, 40 km of white water and fun and games. I made good time through the valley. The only problem I encountered was at Emu's, at a rapid called Shredder, where two boats came drift and blocked my path. I had get out and push the boat over them. Another long story that will cost you a few beer to be told in detail. There are so many rapids in the valley it's hard to remember them all. The hard ones can be easy to shoot and simple ones that look easy can surprise you. I made Bell's without a hitch and had a lot of fun. Then the long paddle to the finish.

This was where my Avon came unstuck. I was not comfortable in the seat of my boat. This gave me a lot of pain in the bum which slowed me up and cost me time and some considerable pain. It is so worth spending time and money setting this part of your boat up for maximum comfort. I only fully committed to do this year's Avon three weeks before the race and I hadn't spend a lot of time in the boat I use for the Avon. So the point I'm making here is than you will make the distance far better if you are comfortable in your boat.

At one point Colin told me that didn't he didn't come all this away to listen to me carry on so hurry up and finish. Kristina also said nah you'll make it, just keep going. So I finished and it felt worth it. As the end always does. It was great to see my support team and other Swannies at the finish line. We were also rapt to see Dallas come in a bit later and complete his first Avon. Well done to all the Swannies and support teams to make 2013 another sucessful Avon year.

I'd love to see more Swannies in it next year to make it even bigger and better.

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