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October 25, 2013

KonTiki Chairman's Challenge results and feedback

Photographs courtesy Ninth Benoni Scout Group
I had a chance to talk to Jacques Hulley from Ninth Benoni Scout Group on the weekend about KonTiki Chairman's Challenge. He had returned with his Scouts from the Vaal River the previous weekend, and they did well: in their first time rafting on a river, the team of six placed sixth out of nine teams. Congratulations to First Blairgowrie who won the Challenge.

The competition was close, and teams were judged on pioneering, safety and mobility. Their pioneering and safety had to satisfy the judges before a seaworthiness permit was granted for them to launch. Mobility was judged by racing 17km (10 miles) down the Vaal river. A strong headwind blew up, so the course was shortened to ten kilometers, and six teams finished the race. For the pre-launch judging, every troop present judged every raft, including their own, and  after comparing the marks for impartiality, all of the scores were added for each raft. This means that every troop who took part gained experience in judging and inspecting rafts as well.

Jacques had a few tips to share, and his troop is looking forward to taking part next year if they qualify. 
  • The cargo net instead of rigid decking worked very well for Ninth Benoni, and they will definitely use it for river rafting in future. The net drains water off the raft, and also give attachment points for all the items that need to be arrived
  • Punting poles in combination with paddles work for mobility, even on a relatively large river, by South African standards.
  • Waterproofing and sealing of all supplies is important. Most of the food and gear carried was sealed in  two ziplock bags.
  • Experience counts. Ninth Benoni did a lot of work to prepare, but nothing matches real experience on a river. The majority of the Scouts on the raft are young enough to be able to take part for the next few years.

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