The Garry Boater-X is in its 3rd year, held on the dam-release River Garry near Fort Augustus and organised by Kevin Barclay and Daryn Hubbucks in association with the SCA, Pillow Rock and Go Kayaking Scotland. This year, the competition was attended by 41 men, 18 ladies and many more spectators. Here’s a little write-up from my first experience of boater-x.

River Garry - Boater X 2015

The Garry Boater-X 2015 was a truly well-organised event. A friendly host of mainly Scottish paddlers were welcoming on arrival at the river and despite knowing very few other people on arrival, by the time the last finals were held, it seemed that everyone knew everyone despite some fierce rivalries and intense competition!

There’s even a race villain (Mr Fleming) who’s dirty tricks merit ‘boos’ and hisses from spectators whilst the two race organisers (the ‘Northern softies’) do battle for bragging rights and a wooden spoon! As the day went on and the rounds went by, the level of competition escalated as did the Scottish sense of humour!

River Garry - Boater X 2015

The format follows 4 rounds in which the top boaters move up divisions and the slower boaters move down. This means that by round 3, the competition in each heat is very close as ability is matched. There were 6 boaters in each heat with 7 heats for men/blokes and 3 for the ladies/lassies. The course is around 500m starting in a slack eddy before taking on some grade 2-3 rapids including a big wave at the finish line to catch the tired racers unaware. No-one is knocked out and everyone has their own final depending on which division they end up in based on results of the previous round. There was an excellent safety team stationed in the gorge section and at the end to catch boats, gear and bodies as there was some inevitable carnage.

River Garry - Boater X 2015

Every round and every heat had its own story. There was talk of attempted deck popping in the mens’ heats whilst someone else was ‘boofed on’ whilst upside down in a hole in the ladies heats! Some of the races were incredibly close right to the finish line and the speed in the finals was incredible!

River Garry - Boater X 2015

After the prize giving which included generous amount of goodies from Go Kayaking Scotland and Pillow Rock, the host of paddlers headed to Fort Augustus for a night of frivolities. At one point, the bar looked like a scene from a prison riot with so many competitors wearing their bright orange event t-shirts! All in all, an excellent event on and off the water, definitely recommended despite the 600 mile round trip and ferocious battalions of midges! Long may it continue!

Men’s finalists:

1 Colin Aitken, 2 Gavin Millar, 3 Gordon Ross, 4 Paul Sherman, 5 James Fleming, 6 Ewan Campbell

Ladies finalists:

1 Jen Hartnett, 2 Suzanne Horn, 3 Alice Dean, 3 Mags Elliot, 4 Kirstie Macmillan, 5 Catherine Lear, 6 Julie Miller

Words and pictures: Kirstie Macmillan