IOW Surf Club wins the Annual Ventnor to Sandown Cracker Race – by Tony Macpherson
This race took place in the early 80′s. We had a surf club meeting in the Castle Inn in Newport and this peculiar race was mentioned. It got everyone interested and we decided to enter.
I offered to build the cracker and others were happy to do the run.
The rules required a cracker which was 12ft long by 3ft diameter. It had to be decorated and six runners had to complete the course with it in fancy dress. The race was from Botanical gardens in Ventnor to Sandown pier.
Annie and I worked on the cracker, it had a 6 inch x 12ft plastic water pipe as the backbone, courtesy of Southern water, six carrying handles, two telescopic handles front and back for passing through narrow spaces and several hula hoops as the frame. Annie and I covered and decorated it ready for the run.
On the day the surf club ran superbly and won, we also won best decorated cracker. My memory is not so good on the next details but I think we won the following year as well.
In the third year we failed to win as some teams broke the rules and used collapsible crackers which could easily pass through the narrow spaces along the course. Not sure what happened to the race after that.
The runners were Dave Jacobs, Mike Smith, Colin Graham, Dave Downer, Neil Smith and Simon Richardson.
Day 2 of the South Coast Surfing Championships saw an early start at Compton Bay for all involved. After the postponement of the competition on the Saturday and swell due to build overnight, Matt Harwood had asked everyone to be at the beach for 7am for a 7.30am start.
I briefly checked Freshwater Bay on my way to Compton and the swell had definitely arrived. When I got to Compton there was a debate as to whether the competition should be moved to Freshwater Bay or even Niton. I was keen to have it moved to Freshwater Bay but the general opinion was for it to stay at Compton as the bay was out of control (later I was informed that a few guys had attempted to surf Freshwater Bay and had taken an absolute pounding). Matt made the right choice and opted to stay at Compton and start with the Juniors at 7.45am.
As the heats were being read out a huge set came into Compton and it looked really heavy. Extra safety precautions were put into place with the competitors being briefed about how to signal the beach if any of them were unhappy. There were definitely a few concerned faces but water safety was on hand from Chris Mannion and James Ranson if needed.
At one point James Ranson lost his board and was left with a long swim to the beach. Chris Mannion took great delight in this, and paddled over to give James a ride back to the beach telling everyone he had had to rescue James too. James got his own back later by becoming the 2011 South Coast Open Champion.
The Juniors were encouraged to stay on the inside and catch the re-formed waves but the rip still ensured that water safety guys was kept busy when competitors were swept too close to rocks or the wreck. One of the Juniors made it out the back and managed to catch one of the set waves, but it was before his heat had started and he then took about 10 waves on the head before deciding to come in and surf the re-forms with the other competitors.
As the Junior heats went on, the waves on the inside were getting better as the tide pushed up and they put on an impressive performance. Future South Coast Champions were really making the most of the inside waves. The Juniors surfed through to the Semi-finals and then had a break with the final scheduled for the mid afternoon.
The weather was awful with drizzle for most of the day and it was so dark you would almost think it was the middle of winter. This didn’t seem to put people off coming to watch as the car park was completely full and cars were parked all down the road along the grass bank too.
The Girls Junior Final saw IOW Surf Club’s Kirra Bell against Lucy Howell from Shore Surf Club. A brand new NSP surfboard sponsored by Rapanui was up for grabs in this final and both girls started well catching lots of waves. Eventually Lucy got the better for Kirra finding a couple of waves with a short clean wall on the inside to become Junior Girls 2011 South Coast Champion.
It was an all Island Final, and with the boys getting some free surfing in at lunchtime you could see we were in for a great final. It was fantastic to see the the future of Island surfing with Robin Forrest, Matt Townsend, Dom Arnold and Thomas Francis battling it out, wave for wave to become the South Coast Champion. Robin Forrest came out on top with a couple of great waves coming off the bottom and hitting the lip, sending spray everywhere.