The wackiest boat race in the world
21st February 2011
The race is on - the BCN Challenge is back after skipping a year due to water shortages.
I was planning to enter the BCN Challenge last year, and even booked some time off to allow the Challenge to be incorporated into a longer boat trip with my faithful crew member, Mr Truth. But then the Chasewater Reservoir was drained and all non essential movement on the BCN was suspended.
But now its back on, perhaps the craziest race outside the world of Top Gear. Where else could you contemplate staging a race for canal boats? Not that this will be much of a spectator sport should you visit Birmingham on 28th and 29th May. There will be few head to head drag races down the New Main Line nor do I expect to see fisticuffs at the top of Farmers Bridge Locks as rival crews try to enter first. Oh no, the world of canal boats is far to gentlemanly for that.
The reality is that there are 100 miles of of navigable BCN and if the 2009 event is anything to go by there will be about 50 craft entered, or one every 2 miles. Boats can start anywhere on the BCN at 8.00am on 28th May and have to end at Walsall Town Wharf at 2.00pm of Sunday 29th - which allows 7 hours for sleep (or running repairs). So apart form a slight uplift in traffic you this isn't likely to be much of a spectacle - apart from the finish where everyone converges for the first time.
So Wand'ring Bark will be throwing in her lot crewed by Mr Truth, Jeff who will be home from college and myself. All three of us are Challenge rookies, but very competitive. I am already mulling over the various routes and the merits of the points system, trying to work out the optimum course. Ideally we will try to include the final 5.5% of the system that we still haven't covered which includes the Bumblehole Arm and the Perry Barr Locks from Salford Junction. But given our competitive nature I suspect that these may be forsaken if they fail to offer maximum points.
All in all this is an excellent way of creating movement of the little used remaindered canals of the northern BCN, and creating a little bit of awareness of the system to the local population.
The big question for me is to Wyrley of not to Wyrley. I am so tempted to take in the big northern loop but the passage through Harden is never an exciting prospect!
Mr Truth will call for several planning sessions in the Lazy Hill, so for us the BCNS Marathon Challenge has already started. See you there?