Last night I made my second attempt on the Menai Challenge, the plan was to be on the water for 18:30 at Gallows Point, things didn't go quite as planned and we had a bigger turnout than expected. I paddled with John Willacy of Rockpool Kayaks, Pascale Eichenmuller, Aled Williams of Tiderace and Marcus Demuth of legendary expedition paddling exploits and current leader of the challenge. Barry Shaw & award winning film-maker Justine Curgenven had been paddling earlier in the day & met us at the start but decided that it wasn't the night for them to do it. Forgive me for name dropping all these folk, but I've seen a lesser schedule of speakers at some symposia in the past, I was impressed by the company I was keeping, it was like a chapter of the Who's Who of the North Wales Sea Kayak scene.
I'd done this in the Cetus MV on the previous attempt, this time I was determined to try one of the new boats we're stocking and took the Tiderace Xcape. Aled was using his Ski, the others all paddled the Rockpool Taran.
When I looked at the rest of the field, I decided rather than keeping everyone waiting for at least 45 minutes at the end, I'd simply undertake the shorter course again and if I was lucky, I might get to the end without keeping them waiting too long.
Using a handicap system, we set off at one minute intervals from Gallows Point, as the most handicapped paddler there, I went first. I set myself a goal, the biggest one of the evening, could I reach Bangor Pier just over 2km from the start before anyone else caught me. After 13 minutes, I reached the pier JUST ahead of Pascal & Marcus. It wasn't long after that that everyone had passed me. Another 3.5 Km saw me passing under Menai Bridge about five or six hundred metres behind Pascale. I dug in pressing hard on my footpegs the stopwatch was counting down and my next goal for the evening was to get there in under thirty three minutes, I blew it 33:06.
There was a lone figure stood in the middle of Menai Bridge, watching as I paddled under, years of living in London & Liverpool made me wary anticipating a dropped spit-bomb, brick or worse. All of a sudden I heard a cheery shout of "Hi Pete", it was Barry. Knowing that I wasn't about to be bricked (despite his accent) and with his words of encouragement ringing in my ears, I picked up my pace and set myself another goal, could I reach Ynys Gored Goch before everyone else turned & began paddling up from below Pont Britannia. I managed this, just. John was already on the return leg, Aled close behind, Marcus and Pascale were just under the bridge. Another goal achieved, I was going reasonably well, but not as well as I had last time. However my motivation was high, I hadn't been paddling since my attempt on the 15th July and I was enjoying myself. I tipped my hat (metaphorically) to Lord Nelson and continued on to Plas Newydd. Moel y Don appeared and the bright lights of Y Felinheli appeared on my left, the wind picked up and slowed me a little more. My previous effort had been on a big 9.2m tide with a 25-30mph tailwind.
I paddled past Y Felinheli, on towards Plas Menai and the bright lights of Caernarfon, the wind dropped, the sun was dipping and in the last few hundred metres became aware that John was hard on my tail.
I didn't get to sit for long basking in the glory of my slower time (down by 10 minutes) before John caught up with me, and I became aware that he'd paddled 9km further than me a couple of minutes quicker, but as I explained at the time, I wasn't that bothered by my slower time, it meant that I'd had an extra 10 minutes on the water and with the amount of time I've spent on the water since my last attempt (none) that was 10 precious minutes of pure paddling pleasure, just lost in my thoughts and paddlestrokes and work was a long way from them.
If I can do it, then it goes to show that's more than in the realms of us mere mortals and not just for these paddling legends, it's a time trial, so the reality is that you're competing against yourself, but as I found out last night, you can still have fun even when you lose. Give it a go, it's better than reading about what other people have done.
Tonight, it's sunny but breezy and North Stack is running, time to try out another of our wonderful products, the Tiderace Xtreme.