Colligan gorge games seemed to take over where over boater X’s in Ireland were being a premium Irish paddling and party weekend.
The Boater X itself take part in a section of the Colligan Gorge which is fairly continuous grade 2/3. As always the Colligan Gorge Games Crew had worked hard in the build up tapping in suppliers and sponsors for prizes and support. With 200 pre registered it was looking for a high attendance.
On a cold Saturday morning I left a dark Dublin for the long trek south to deepest Waterford. To my surprise the route which used to take forever has a nice new shiny motorway the whole way down so even in the I-Canoe truck it cut down the journey time considerably.
Along the way the dawn was breaking in the east with the sun melting off the ground frost and showing us the extent of the previous nights rain with the Barrow notably “in the fields” As we approached the morning was upon us bright sunshine lit up the road. I arrived at the Colligan guest house to roads full of paddling cars and vans full of boats and personnel donning wetsuits and dry suits galore. With the work van I cruised through the masses to a nice close area for sponsors :-)
After unloading a supply of demo boats and hanging banners and flags around the course I took to kitting up myself, With well over 150 people there it was an equipment explosion from people looking cold in damp wet suits to the dapper in their dry suits. I personally chose to use separate cag and trousers choosing the Sandiline splash range as is light and nimble and the twin neo seals not only insulate but do not chaff or rub, This with my K1Pro PFD I felt gave me an advantage as opposed to the lads in the full suits and rescue PFD’s. The games opened with the Men's sport as the many men made the long trek up the river over the bridge and up to the start the experts gathered around the final drop looking for lines and extra tactics.
after the men's sport went ladies sport, junior men, junior women, expert women and finally expert men. This was to be a hotly contested event after the Crana event 2 weeks previous and colligan events of previous years this event was sure to call in all the big names from all over the country.
The River was low with lots of rocks causing people to get stuck up and bouncing off the drops were low with tricky exit lines causing lots of bracing, and the competition was quick.
My first heat started badly getting myself spun at the beginning whilst paddling backwards with the pack I took the opportunity of an outcrop to fire the tail of my boat into giving the boat momentum to turn also blocking off the approaches from behind, after this fun I was sitting in 2nd just behind the leader, Having taken part on a few of these events now I've learnt the key is persistence the top two go through so stay close to the leader and if the opportunity to take the lead arises go for it. In my heat this game plan paid off with the leader just catching a eddy line losing speed I lifted the bow onto the slow moving water and charged forward into the lead and headed for the last drop and safely to the finish line.
The reward for a win the long walk all the way back to the top of the course for the next heat.
My second race put me against Dave o Sullivan, Conor Healy in the Flash C1 and Brian Keogh one of the pre event favourites this was one of the toughest races with Dave taking the lead at the beginning leaving myself and Keoghser to get tangled up with boats and blades entangled and the persistent threat for Conor in his C1 we fought our way down at one point pushing each other to the point Conor saw a gap and went for it before we blocked his move, Back to the game tactics I kept on his tail waiting for the error and once again it came with a small drop just taking the bow of Brian's boat slowing him just enough for me to get ahead as we entered the final drop I caught Dave powering to the finish right on his tail not giving up whilst still defending from the continuous threat behind coming home in 2nd place put me into the Semis.
Once again into the semis this time I faced a strong field containing more of the favourites Paddy and Wongie. From the start the lads forced me left and into the wall of the gorge slowing me down pushing me into last place as I came out I could see the lads steaming on, I put down the hammer and went for it, Around the halfway line I made my move into 3rd taking at an eddy from here all i could do was paddle with Paddy monstering ahead just out of reach making no mistakes at the finish I cruised through and finished up 3rd in my semi leaving me in 5th Place as i did in Crana.
Next up was the team event for this I pulled in Ronnie and Jemma to make my team. Jemma had flown over especially for the event all the way from the Custard County. We cruised to the start and got in the queue with each team going in a timed run to determine the winner.
As we headed off we set a good pace keeping the team tight and strong as Ronnie went for the roll I moved to the front like the mighty ducks in formation I hit the river left eddy as Jem went by I made my move smoothly to the river right eddy where i hit the banner, I watched Jem wave to the judged as Ronnie bailed down i eddied out back into the flow before powering for the finish line.
We had a clean run completing all the tasks and smoothly with no problems. We made our way back to the van.
This is where the drama started with a solid days paddling behind us we climbed the slope up to the top this had been getting progressively muddier as I reached the top I lost my footing on the mud and slipped forward trying to regain my balance with my paddle, I managed to hit myself in the face with the blade, I can confirm AT2’s are a very stiff and solid blade, resulting in a split lip and cracking a front tooth. So as a warning to everyone don't try to eat your paddle!!
While I was cleaning myself up the final took place with an all star cast, Paddy McGovern, Colin Wong, Rob Coffee and YanniMan The Greek. With the Paddy/Yanni rivalry fired up after the Crana event here was the rematch. In what was a close and powerful race all of the lads gave it their all, But Paddy took the win to make in 2 wins in 2 events, With Colin Wong 2nd the same as last year and YanniMan The Greek in third place and Rob bringing up the rear in 4th.
In a side not I can honestly say I was very impressed with the sandiline splash range with lots of good feedback it looks great and really did keep me dry and warm the perfect kit for boater X and adventure racing where the performance matters!
The event was hugely successful even with the low water levels and lower than expected numbers, everyone had a great day and the prize giving was really good with Prizes from I-Canoe, The Great Outdoors, Total Experience, MDAC, Bantry Bay Canoes, and lots more The most notable class was the junior men with Neil Slevin and Eoin Keyes taking the top two places winning themselves Peak creek Cags also taking the junior men's team title to win Peak throwlines and then the Event award of a Palm PFD for their club these two will step up to the experts men next year and will take no prisoners in their quests for back to back titles, These two are some of Irelands best young paddlers.
The evening party took place back in Waterford with most people choosing to stay at Villa de Travelodge, It was warm and cheap :-) the party started in the rooms before moving to the road and down to the club, unfortunately due to my terrible injury I found drinking to be painful but was helped greatly with the aid of a straw. With the band rocking and the Nintendo themed fancy dress sporting Mario's, Luigis and various other blasts from the past.
The event was run professionally and smoothly with a knowledgeable team who have a system which works. This event has potential to continue to develop and improve, Roll on 2011
Thanks to the Colligan Gorge Games Crew