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Ben Mercer, WA representative on Australian down river team touring Europe for World Championships, 2004

Letter 4

Hi All

The last leg of the trip in Switzerland is now drawing to a close.

The last world cup course was in Muotathal which is situated in yet another spectacular valley. The river course was about 12 minutes of intense waves, at some points like trying to paddle in a washing machine. For a river that looks very uniform when viewed down the straights, some experience with the fast lines to take was a big advantage. The river was much higher than when we had paddled it at the beginning of the trip, but just as cold ! The classic was held on the Thursday and then by Saturday the river was in flood for the sprint. We were moved to probably the flattest ever world cup race, in a small canal 20 minutes away. Being a bit more familiar with that type of racing I was pleased to sneak in for my best result of the tour.

I wouldn't recommend Muotathal as a first choice holiday destination though. Every cow, sheep and goat has a bell and they ring the church bells for prolonged periods at obscene hours of the day. Drove us mad !

We then moved on to the last week in the south of Switzerland, at a place called Scuol near St Moritz, for the Swiss Nationals. The Inn River was a great course and a really fun way to finish the tour. Once again the classic course was about 12 minutes and finished with what has become customary, a 'Race Wrecker' rapid at the end ! Most of these rivers have a chunky section of white water that they use for Slalom competition with good get-out and parking areas. The organisers obviously want to include this and then they draw the finish line straight afterwards. This means that you arrive at this critical point rather the worse for wear and then do your best to survive ! We had some good results this week with a highlight being a win in the teams race.

The trip has been a great experience and I would recommend anyone interested in this type of paddling to have a crack at it. You see some amazing places from a quite different point of view and it has been well worth it.

Travelling home now so will see many of you soon.
All the best.

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