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30 June 2011
On 19th June, Shrewsbury re-enacted the Olympian Festival of 1864. Held at the Quarry, in the loop of the River Severn, this featured many of the events from the original festival. The sport of jingling is unfortunately not included in London 2012, otherwise you might have been able to get tickets.
We had been asked to provide some Victorian style coracle racing. As you know, organising coraclers is a bit like herding cats, so until the day I had no idea who was going to turn up. So I was relieved to arrive at the Pengwern boat club to find Matin Baines, dressed in colonial garb with a hide coracle. Then others began to trickle in, including splendidly attired refugees from the Ironbridge Regatta keen to renew old rivalries.
So, about 5 minutes before the off, the question was "What are we going to do?" The rowers had impressive race lists of head to heads and repecharges. We just gave the megaphone to Gerwyn. Honed by years of commentating at Ironbridge, his patter soon drew a large crowd. We put on a paddle-past, while Gerwyn kept the spectators informed about the different coracles. Luckily, there were three types of Shrewsbury on show, plus representatives of the Teifi, Ironbridge and Teme traditions.
There followed, according to the PA, some "blistering" coracle racing. A team relay event, a one-handed race and a sprint. This being a decorous Victorian regatta, we left out the polo.
At the conclusion of the event, we were given a round of applause from the on-lookers. So we felt we had earned the tea, scones and cake on offer at the rowing club.
The loop at Shrewsbury is a lovely place to paddle, so long as you keep an eye open for pointy things travelling backwards at high speed.
Article by Terry Kenny. Photos by David Wright