In March, 1st Claremont entered two teams into the challenging Rayner Trophy. I was a part of a team with APL Justin Cheney, P3 Matthew Gammon and P4 Simon Bean.
The Rayner Trophy is an overnight hiking competition, run within a 100 km radius of Cape Town every year. The first day of the competition starts with the teams travelling to a location posted on Facebook the evening before – usually a petrol station. The starting point of the actual hike is only revealed once the teams have reached this point. We arrived at the Fresh Stop on the N2 and verbally received our directions to the starting point from the competition leader.
This year it was run at Hawequas Scout Ranch. It was a shorter hike than usual, with just 9 kms of hiking on the first day and slightly over 10 kms on the second.
The points that secure our place on Rayner are determined by how well each team completes the bases and Spare Time Activities, as well the meals they cook for the judges. It is a highly demanding competition physically, emotionally and skills-wise.
The first day was along a long, flat path; so flat, in fact, that our team and a couple of others saw fit to climb halfway up a mountain in the wrong direction to spice things up a bit. Upon realizing our navigation lapse, we proceeded to sprint down the mountain again and hand in an STA. We found the bases on day one relatively simple – one base required us to build an easel, which was accompanied by an original work by our resident artist Justin (which coincidentally depicted us winning a trophy…). The first aid bases were also a high point.
A pivotal point on day one was a base at the Hawequas Dam. We were supposed to make floatation devices out of our shirts and float simultaneously with them for one minute. As we were waiting for a judge to become available to watch us, I saw team by team settle with half-marks because they were getting cold and couldn’t get their team to float uniformly. It was then that our team looked at each other and agreed that no matter how long it took us and no matter how cold we got we would not give up the invaluable points that this base represented. In the end, the teams that gave up placed infinitesimally lower than us on points, and our perseverance set us apart in this way.
Supper was served and night bases ensued. We had to estimate the height of a flagpole, decipher codes, cross ditches and other challenging exercises. We eventually went to bed at midnight, only to wake up at 4am to carve (and attempt to eat) a bar of soap.
We realized on day two that there were a great deal less bases and Spare Time Activities on this particular Rayner than we had seen in previous years. We decided as a team that this must mean each base, each activity and each interaction with a judge meant even more, as each point counted more. We become even more determined to give our best on the final day. Though we saw this as a challenge, the trust we had in each other and our skills, as well as our unified objective of doing our best, definitely drew us together during the competition.
We started out hiking, and found ourselves leading the pack through the bush on a nonexistent path. The second day of hiking was definitely a bit tougher than the first, with bundu-bashing, never-ending hills and even a hidden “observation” base, which we were horrified to have missed. We made up for it, however, with a very entertaining skit about mugging and by trying to complete a back splice with telephone-pole wire.
The hike ended back at Hawequas, where the two Claremont teams sat together relaxing, waiting for the PLs to finish their battle for more points. At the closing ceremony, we waited with bated breath as the top ten places were called. I, for one, dared not look at David or Susan as the top five and four were called. Both Claremont teams were called up for the top three positions, along with a 6th Rondebosch team. Third was 6th Rondebosch, 2nd was Claremont B, and our team came first! After a grueling weekend with fierce competition, we finally pulled through to secure the trophy a second time running – this time grabbing both first and second place. Well done, 1st Claremont!