Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tech Ops Raft Race Day

After a long night of furious construction in the workshop, the 6 teams & their rafts - in various stages of construction - were relocated to a nearby farm dam on Saturday morning.  The judge's bank account was open for business...

& a flock of spectators rolled up to follow the action.

Some teams seemed hopelessly un-prepared, arriving with little more than their raw materials.

Others had made a start but still had a long way to go.

& some had clearly been extremely busy over the past few days.

"Basic tools" like a welder were available out at the dam...

Even the most mature design still needed substantial development through the course of the morning.

While others hauled out their secret weapon - an outboard motor alledged to run on ethanol...  Fortunately the judge was having none of that & the offending accessory was disallowed.

Slowly but surely - the various craft took shape.

Some were clearly subject to far more creativity than most: enter Johan, Nicolaas, Cobus & Co's Pirate Astronomers team!

A team bringing credibility to astronomers at last :)  This really made an impact on Judge Darragh.

After a few spectacular wipe-outs, the team of Chris, Eben & Hitesh got it together & showed everyone how it's done.

Zulu, Amanda & Jonathan's raft put up more of a fight - throwing them off a few times before making its way to a quiet corner of the dam, from where it later watched the race.

Preliminary sea-trials for the Pirates were fairly harrowing, but they weathered the storm & made the necessary mods to ensure future stability.

Stripped of their first-choice propulsion mechanism, the team of Vic, Peter & Martin had to lighten their raft & start scrounging for paddles.  All the while - Zulu & Amanda wrestled bravely with their recalcitrant beast.

Francois, Grant & Garith's masterpiece was rapidly taking shape.

But progress was relatively slow for Charl, Paul & Lisa's monstrosity with the crank from hell & the super-sized rudder.  

Elegance did not feature prominently in this design, but at least it did eventually come together & let the record reflect that it did in fact float...

In the meantime, the ergonomic, aesthetically pleasing craft-next-door sat patiently anchored, waiting for the show to begin - subliminally taunting the rest of the field.

Once all had survived their sea-trials, it was time to go!

The fleet first had to cross the dam to pick up tokens on the far side before heading over to the finish near the dam "wall".

The field quickly opened up & the combination of Hitesh's peddling & Eben's paddling sped them to the finish. 

Chris was conspicuous in his absence during the business part of the race, but did later enter the water to participate in their lap of honour.  Tsk Tsk!

Francois, Garith & Grant were next in, their sail taking full advantage of the wind.

While all this was going on - an epic drama was unfolding remarkably close to the start...  It's not yet clear whether a broken cable tie, or a powerful vortex generated by the propeller attached to Hitesh's bicycle, led to the spectacular disintegration of the cumbersome paddle steamer.

None the less, the brave crew heroically coaxed their mangled craft (& battered bodies) to the finish - albeit bypassing the check-point on the far side of the dam.  Mercifully, Amanda was on hand to administer first aid in the form of Windhoeks for all - a sign of true compassion!

The team responsible for numerous acts of sabotage throughout the day somehow got hold of a token at the check-point & then sent Martin racing to the finish - on foot (!) - in order to claim 3rd place.  A glaring omission in the rules prevented this being declared illegal & thus the deserving Pirate Astronomers were robbed of a podium finish.

Luckily, by this stage - any sense of competitive urgency had long since dissipated.

Sadly for our judge du jour, cellphone reception was patchy & did not permit the banking-by-phone that he'd been hoping for.

The winning craft, parked back at the start, exuded an air of cool smugness for the rest of the afternoon.

For the spectators, it was time for a cruise with skipper Eben.

Safely back on terra firma, Charl took it upon himself to administer the obligatory "mampoer" shots to all in need of antiseptic, anaesthetic, solace & rehydration.

The braai was handled by Kobus & helpers - thank you guys!  After expending all that physical, mental & emotional energy, everyone was ravenously hungry by mid-afternoon.

Next it was time for the prize-giving, with under-sized T-shirts & vouchers for "dinners with Vic" being awarded.

In addition to the 1st, 2nd & 3rd place prizes - the Pirate Astronomers claimed the "most innovative raft" award & Amanda, Jono & Zulu got the "best team spirit" prize for not getting too bummed when their raft threw them off & ran away.

However, as is so often the case - the unsung hero of the day was undoubtedly Charl: the only person to be dealt the crippling blow of having 2 astronomers put into his team.  He also stoically guided his sinking craft to the finish, man-hauled the wreckage back to the start & then helped to provide food & strong alcohol for all - Cheers Boet!

What a fantastic day!  Thanks especially to Chris, Adelaide, Grant & their many helpers for making it happen, to the farmers that offered us the use of their dam & to everyone for their superb contributions to this brilliant event :)


  1. Thank you, that was a real pleasure to read. I wish I was there!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.