So, after intensive preparation and kit accumulation, mainly involving dinners, vino and the odd quad sesh – team “Swift Conqueror” (four parts Vesta, one part Mortlake, shaken not stirred) eventually found ourselves set to travel to Geneva with some very heavy bags (well Verity and I did, because we had baggage allowance on BA and everyone else flew easyair).
Friday was spent rigging and decking out our craft ‘Octoram’ ready for the epic voyage she would undertake the next day. This was done mainly in rain, some of it quite heavy. Vel and Helen used our Alan Fuller sign to construct a proper breakwater. Harry, Rob and myself wrapped the boat in black shrinkwrap. To describe the finished product as awe inspiring would be.. well wrong. Slightly drooping with aspects of binliner would be more appropriate, but she proved lake-worthy in our test scull that afternoon and so we switched our attention to readying the nutrition strategy back at the bunker while Harry added co-ordinates into Burnell’s Garmin.
The next day dawned grey and windy. Not wanting to dwell on the task before us, we busied ourselves with last minute prep – taping hands, making sure things that needed batteries had batteries, stowing food and water in the boat. Finally as the boating marshall called our number and checked over our boat we added the last bobs and bits – and we took to the water – team Swift Conqueror and Octoram were ready.
I’d like to write about the next fourteen and a half hours – about the shotgun start and the mad dash with 29 crews all going for that first bouy. the rough water, being overtaken by girls. Pumping. Realising the shrinkwrap we put over the riggers was actually dragging in the water and slowing us down. Overtaking the girls. Bailing. The stages of euphoria followed by the periods of introspection. Pumping. Randomers cheering us from the bank, trying to eat, pump, steer, drink and stretch in the coxes seat. Pumping. Getting into a ryhthm when the water calmed down, and then being told we had to return on the North shore as the wind was going to pick up. Ibuprofen. Cramp. The changes every thirty minutes and then, every twenty when lips started going purple in the coxes seat. Blisters. Overtaking another boat on the way back in the teeth of a Northern wind. Pumping. Realising we were in a really good position. Pumping. Getting even colder. Hanging on as the Sun went down. Trying to find the bouys in the dark. Getting a bit lost. Bonking. Pumping. Hallucinating. Finally seeing the water jet in Geneva harbour.
Just. Keeping. Going.
Getting caught by a following wave, sitting lower, bailing, stopping and sinking. Trying to get the attention of the rescue boat.
Realising after all the effort and the planning and the pain that we went down 2km from the finish line. In sight of the harbour.
In context, thats capsizing in the last three strokes of a 2k.
I’d like to write about the fourteen and a half hours we spent going to Montreaux and back. Honestly though, I can’t remember most of it.
I think that’s why the five of us are going back to do it again next year.
– Jamie Halliday