Avon Descent 2008
by Ian Finnie
© 2008 I. Finnie
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I picked up my juicy orange Finn Multisport kayak the Friday before scrutineering and was surprised by its weight which was remarkably similar to off-the-shelf versions. Here's me thinking that I could get a paper thin speed machine, or secret prototype, but I appreciated that that's just not in the spirit of the plastic class. After a 15 year lay-off, this year was just to get me back into it, I wasn't taking it seriously, of course not. It appeared that some kind of red mist had descended on the Multisport's shiny orange surface as it was being made.
Whipped down the Northam shoot and the Multipsort lost its viginity, torpedoing through the flotsam and jetsam that had collected down-stream. Starting half-way down the field it was a case of weaving and chatting past the line of plastic pilgrims.
I caught up to the graceful speedy paddling of Jenni. The chaos and pandemonium of the compulsory Katrine portage came along. Not wanting to encounter any C2 grumpiness I spontaneously chose the channel on the right, otherwise known as s&@% creek. So, another quick ramble across several banks got me back to what I presumed was the Avon. Hey, it is a multisport after all.
Glenn Avon in spate has awesome surfing waves, perfect for a Finnatic on another day. Picking a line through inadvertently freestyling paddlers is all part of that Indiana Jones experience of the Descent. Never has Extracts been so friendly, even forgiving of my terrible lemming-like entry. The sun was shining, I was cooking in my ill-advised cag and there were lots of familiar voices and faces on the bank. I passed Jenni, a second time, the field had thinned and it was a case of solo grunt work, interspersed with bedraggled 'extracted' composites. Oh to start in a 'supergrid' and be able to team-up from the start. The multisport was cranking along really nicely, skimming across the water, and the new blade that Hugh had expertly put on my not-so indestructible paddle just before the race was holding out just fine. Never one for paddling on the flat, the unfamiliar boat and scenery was actually turning out to be a distracting novelty.
Paddled and chatted with Bruce as we worked our way to the Tee Trees. The week before I met some jovial Irish lads bizarrely putting steps on the river bank and I was determined to see what was going on so, rather than heading off left with the others, I rambo'd right and found myself a mostly deserted freeway. Big Marquee, plenty of Champagne, and there was bemused Avonveteran John with at least one bemused eye on this lonely paddler. Occasionally I would hear the gentle sounds of paddlers expertly navigating their way on the left. I was getting nervous, I hadn't seen another paddler for half an hour and, cutting over the left bank, slalomed through the trees following a group of doubles, including poorly Mike and Liam on the totally inappropriately named Men's Health. Past Jimperding, skirting the normal thickets and up the long pool to the big house. More bobbing and weaving, through to the washed out Leatherhead, and an upstream gate to finish. An angel appeared and helped me carry the Multisport to the end of what appeared to be a relatively short line. Nice one.
Day 2. Is it just me or where exactly is the start line meant to be? Off we go to study the gorillas in the mist. What makes them hug trees rather than just, say, ducking underneath them. Also, is it compulsory to tip your partner in? After spending 5 minutes behind some astounding 'paddling' I managed to sneak past a double only to be rammed by them as I waited for a broached K1 to clear. Down to Supershoot to play Frogger with the other boats. A seemingly brand new grade 3 rapid appeared out of the mist. Blimey, that was interesting. Thank goodness my K1 was in the garage. Mike had said that Emus chicken shoot was open the day before, so off I headed. Through the mist all I could see was a ski rudder waggling at head height round a tree near the top and some unmistakable crunching sounds. Rapidly retreating I warned the approaching paddlers, Ian and Peter, that this was probably not going to be the best line of the day, which was confirmed by Ian's support crew at the finish. Peter and I teamed up going down the valley taking it turns to lead, and generally enjoying the company. Through Moondyne and into the depths of the valley with long pools and bouncy rapids, and no rocks for a change. We encountered some wobbly K1 paddlers on the way and started the yo-yoing of passing on the rapids passing on the flats. But for the grace of Finn there could be I. The Multisport was turning out to be a boon and a great platform to effectively put the power down. The final section of the river from Dick's wave is the best in the race, and leads to chunky Syds at this level. I eased through the top stopper far too slow, causing some defensive paddling by Peter. I'd mentioned the whomping willow dangling over the main shoot, and we came through unscathed.
We bolted left and right at Bells as a comparative experiment and gave the main-drop and baying voyeurs a wide berth. We were sure that they wouldn't be short on action later on. At the bottom I paddled with Justin, and previous Avon champ Ben from Team Finn, who was struggling with the spontaneity of his late entry. He kept plugging away with perfect technique but depleting reserves. Peter soon caught up with some composite paddlers who'd toughed it out through the Valley including Craig. Saviour for this group was team-paddler James from Bunbury who took the lead for a critical stretch towards Middle Swan.
I hit the wall shortly after and was carried by Peter for what felt like an eternity. At Ascot I saw some familiar friendly faces and perked up. At various stages we both told each other to push on ahead, but both knew that it could otherwise turn into a futile and draining battle. Anyway, despite the fact Peter definitely did more than his share of the work, we were glad to finish together on what had been a great day. The familiar face of Arnold was there to carry my new plastic friend away even before I got my land legs back.
The abiding memories of the race were the companionship of other paddlers but mostly how glad I was to be in the Multisport, which confidently handled those pumping misty rapids and gave a stable and efficient platform to crank along on the flat. Great race. Great boat. Nice one Finn.
The Finnster (6/8/8)
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