Sometimes the gods of scootering smile on riders and on other days they give us a kicking. At Woolacombe they couldn’t make up their minds what to do with me.
BSRA – Woolacombe rally report.
Last year I rode my P2 around Europe with scarcely a hitch but this year’s been a different story. Somewhere there’s an elusive air leak which is eating pistons faster than a drunk gets through a kebab at midnight. Engine rebuild number two had survived trips to the Isle of Wight, Weston on Trent and plenty of local riding so, full of confidence, I set off for Woolacombe.
All went well until Bridgwater, when the world suddenly went silent. Once on the hard shoulder a quick prod of the kickstart confirmed a holed piston. I’d barely had time to take things in before a van pulled onto the hard shoulder. Not just any van, but one containing three very friendly ladies. “Get in the back, we’ll take you to the services and you can sort it out there.” This was Sally, Sam and Paula, support van for Barry and District (BAD) SC or, more accurately, my guardian angels for the weekend. The P2 was loaded and we were away within five minutes of the holed piston. Clearly the scooter gods were having second thoughts about the breakdown. In the back of the van I considered the options and had only one question when the door opened – “Can you get me to Woolacombe?’
Now in its 17th year, the South West Scooter Club’s National at Woolacombe has acquired a cult following, Held at the Golden Coast Holiday Village, the rally’s unusual in that it includes Sunday evening. Having set up camp and enjoyed a quick beer, I was ready to turn in after the day’s events, but having heard great things about their set on the Isle of Wight, I wanted to see Friday’s live band, Dexy’s Bootleg Runners.
Walking into the main hall I was surprised to find it packed and I later learned that by Friday evening 2000 wristbands had been sold, with around another 100 guests arriving on Saturday. The Bootlegs instantly packed the dance floor, providing great audience engagement and everything anyone could ask for from Dexy’s catalogue, which when mixed together with classic soul made for a fantastic set. If you haven’t seen the Bootlegs play then you’re missing a treat.
Saturday started off dull and breezy, only hinting at the weather to come. The Golden Coast Village is a purpose-built camp with chalets among pitches for caravans and campers
(I quickly discovered that if you camp on an all-weather pitch you'll need special equipment and I wasn’t alone in finding that trying to use normal tent pegs was about as effective as trying to hammer in cooked spaghetti!). Designed to be self-contained there are bars, a pub, restaurant, barbecue area and shops all on site. It’s also laid out to give everyone a little privacy so my favourite pastime of wandering around looking at parked up scooters did feel a little like walking into someone’s garden at times.
The custom show saw old favourites mixing with several machines I‘d never seen before. The quality was high and it certainly drew in the crowds. I’ve previously travelled alongside Start Me Up, which took Best of Show, but it was also pleasing to see Apocalyptic Prelude being ridden to the rally and then going on to win Best Vespa. Both prove that it’s not necessary to van scooters to a show in order to pick up trophies. There was also a selection of machines that aren’t often represented at shows with small frame Vespas and Lambretta Vegas making a particularly refreshing change.
The trader fair featured a wide range of clothing and spares with the latter being particularly welcome in my case. With engine drama consuming my afternoon I only caught the end of the hypnotist’s act but judging by the amount of laughter and camera phones in action the volunteers suitably embarrassed themselves.
For many Saturday night headliners King Kurt were the weekend’s highlight. I’d never caught the Kurt bug but it looked like I was in a minority as the hall was at capacity. All the classic elements were there including drinking games, a bloke in a dress and the dance floor wreckin’ crew seemed to be having a ball. Unfortunately by Saturday night the weather had deteriorated and rain of biblical proportions mixed with strong wind made for a good test of any tent. It was a test that sadly the stage roof failed to pass, with the band mopping up as part of their performance. I’d be lying to say I’m converted to Kurt’s music but so far as entertainment goes they certainly take some beating.
The story of my ‘rebuild in a field’ is told elsewhere but with a running engine and a chance to beat the weather I decided to leave on Sunday lunchtime, unfortunately missing the fancy dress party which is a big attraction for many. This year Shomaddymaddy provided the traditional kitsch backdrop to what I’m certain was a night enjoyed by all.
There’s no denying that Woolacombe’s a long journey for most of those attending but with stunning scenery, a great venue and full on entertainment it’s certainly worth the effort. Even the scooter gods can’t bear to put a damper on that much fun!