Wind, less wind, lots of wind

We’d got to the lake on Friday, after I’d spent the previous week of so working out how to rig the spinnaker correctly and how to hoist and lower it. However, a bit too much rain forecast and I’d got some work to finish.

So, it was a breezy Saturday that saw Tamara and myself, along Jace, Anita and Ieuan, going for a bit of sailing, and the Mirror was also rigged.

It was a calm morning but the wind picked up before lunch, to make it a little interesting. We’d got Ieuan in the boat and got the spinnaker up but it was a little tricky exercise in slightly cramped conditions.

Jace and Anita capsized the Mirror and we got the Scorpion down to lend assistance and though they’d righted the boat, but Anita was still swimming behind. No bother and we got her back in the boat.

Drying and cleaning the joint

Apres lunch and things got even more interesting and a couple of others who were at club thought the better of it and headed back in, as Tamara and I headed out. All fine, that was until we gave the spinnaker a go and we capsized going down on a run. With a little bit of assistance from the Acorns rescue boat, eventually got the mast out of the mud, minus the burgee, but the boat was full of water, and so was one of the tanks it seemed.

The trip back to the club was more appropriate for a submarine, and not made any better by the back of the centreboard coming away in my hand, Crap. I then made for the front deck, so as to stop the boat sinking any further and we steadily made for the shore.

Evening by the fire

Whilst thinking about preparing dinner, my mind focused on the repair and with some expert input from Jace, went for the epoxy and screw approach to enable the fix. All to plan and then lit the woodburner to get the front room to dry and give the mend a chance to dry out.

Lively on the pontoon

Sunday was race day and decided that Tamara would helm and I’d do battle with the spinnaker. Some mixed sailing and lightish winds, where some excellent runs were spoiled by the weed and general getting stuck. Some things did come from this:
– the Scorpion isn’t the best in lighter winds, even with the new set of sails
– the spinnaker works and seems to work well on runs and dead runs
– that we’ve still some way to go in terms of racing speed and technique (though the starts are pretty fair)

Going well

Monday was meant to be the second day of racing, however the wind picked up just before going out for the first race and it was called off. Probably the right thing to do. Decided, with the help of Henry (a newer club member) to take the boat out anyway, as a Laser and 3 Flying 15’s went out also. Some entertaining sailing, which wasn’t as bad as it seemed from shore. Some good gusts, but manageable and no one out there capsized.

And the centreboard repair held up also. Excellent. Also taping up the rear flaps on the transom makes a lot of sense; it produced a waterfall effect at one point and was greatly improved with the assistance of gaffer tape.

Scorpion 1627 'Classic Rock'

Koningho(oik)t: phew what a scorcher

Not the biggest entry, as with changing the date it couldn’t be a round of the Belgian championship, so a lot of people decided to do something else. Given the weather, that probably meant water, beach or something similar.

The Koningshooikt track is actually inside Fort Koningshooikt, a pre First World War fort, which though not on the scale of Liege or Namur, is pretty impressive, as modern forts go.

Fort Koningshooikt in the sunshine

Forecast for the day was hot, 34 C and higher and left Lier for the short 10 minute drive at 07h30 and it was already 22. The usual array of large campers surrounded by marking tape were already outside on the road, so decamped to a field about 0.5km along the road, where the more old timer array of vans, cars and trailers were parked. Walked down to the fort, signed on and had a quick look at the track. Quick it’s not, a tight, sandy track, with some interesting bumps and jumps. Technical would be the phrase.

Evo race start

The MX250 had had a brief service in a Lier carpark during the week after the trip to Combe Martin the week before after the impromptu piston change in the paddoclk. Fired up second kick and selected all the gears I headed down the road to the fort. Engines off as you walk through the tunnel into the fort, and then up the ramp to the start. Certainly a different place to ride. I’d had a brief sighter of the track but practice was interesting. Off the gate and then down a great bombhole under a bridge handily placed to view the start.

Did about 4 laps (and it was a relatively long lap), before the bike started missing and pissing petrol from the carb overflow. End of practice and a push back to the paddock. Non-trivial as it was now feeling warm. Even though its not a quick track its one of of those places that engine capacity would be good. You could do the whole track in 2nd on the SC500, as long as you could keep your front wheel from washing out in the sand. It was going to be dusty day.

Pintje and racing

Changed back to the VM34 stock carb I’d bought from Allens Performance earlier in the year, though I changed over the main and pilot after the problems I’d had at Scherpenheuvel two weeks before. Bike fired up and seemed pretty okay. All going to plan this time.

Tim's Royal Enfield

Now very warm and headed back down on the road to the fort. Tim (work colleague) had arrived and said hi, before going to look for the transponder and choose my peg for the start.

 Dusty !

Bike happy and starting okay from warm (well hardly surprising, it was now over 30 celsius). The gate goes down and not a bad start from the 20 or so on the line, though loose a couple of places through the first couple of turns. Keeping the line (and there is really only one) is pretty critical, as the sand is packed. Over the berm and you loose the front end. Jumps were good fun and after 3 laps, I’d managed to keep a BSA and a Husky behind me and things were settling down a bit. Spoke to soon and hit a fence post that loomed up in the dust, and stalled the bike. I’m roasting and getting the thing start wasn’t easy as I’d knocked the fuel pipe off the tank. Anyway, lost a couple of minutes (and a lot of places) whilst trying to start the bugger and then took it easy to the finishing line. Wow, hot wasn’t the word and Tim found me a few minutes later mainly naked in the shade of the van (sorry Tim).

Jumps a plenty

Went to watch a couple of races, and entries were relatively small, though not surprising given the weather and that it wasn’t a championship round. A cool pepsi from the beer tent (een pintje not a good idea). Then Sophie and Nele turned up with lunch (and more liquid) so headed out to the paddock. Sitting in the shade and good conversation meant that it was a quick fettle and off for the second race at 13h20. Now roasting as headed back through the tunnel to the start (thinking about it, how cool is that, using a tunnel to get to the start). Quick chat to Jef Bens in the pit box, with more than a sideways glance at the top end death rattle coming off the MX250 (the new Wossner piston has been ordered) .

Another good start (for me anyway) saw me around 7th into the bomb hole and managed to keep a few faster guys behind for the first three laps, where once again I lost the front end on a tight left hander, where again I’d lost the line. Pace better over all and I finished not near the back of the pack, though lost out to guy on the husky again, which was a shame. Had to hide in the tunnel for 10 minutes to cool off, before riding the bike back down to the van and the field. More liquid and then back to the track to watch the last two races and return the transponder. 36 degrees celsius now and very warm. We’re just not used to it in Bwlch.

Werner Castelyns coming out through the fort tunnel

The twinshock and evo fields were not big, but the main guys were going for it and pretty impressive in keeping it smooth over the sand and the jumps.

Headed over to Emblem to clean the bike, the van and my helmet, which was all pretty dusty, stopping via Drankenpalais Plus to pick up some more beer. Still warm, still drinking (water, not beer).

Another good reason to be in Belgium

Still cooling down at 21h00, including [ cold water baths in a paddling pool. ->
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150974927776315 ]. Today was a little crazy in hindsight, but as Sophie has mentioned this evening, but bike likes it.

It dipped below 36 C, but was still hot

Coombe Martin, but not Graham

Mixed feelings accompanied the trip to Coombe Martin, as cock-ups by me (and others) had meant that I found myself in my garage on Friday morning with a bike had broken the previous weekend in Scherpenheuvel . Rather than planning to diagnose the fault, decided that rebuilding the top end on the other engine was going to be the best way forward, as the bottom end was pretty sound.

Loading in Tredegar (again)

It was a nice warm day in Bwlch and 4 hours saw a running bike, with a matching piston and barrel and a new small-end bearing, gudgeon pin and circlip. Just enough time to mow the lawn, do some house tidying for my guests, before heading over to Tredegar to pick up Kevin and Mark.

Coombe Martin from the track

I’d seen the Atlantic Club’s event advertised before and it’s been running since 2000, so it was great to heading down there, even though I had a nagging of feeling of needing to be at least in two other places. The traffic on the M5 was as expected, but still made okay time, with three people, 6 bikes and other junk in the van and trailer. Arrived at the track at Sloley Farm at 21h45, to find plenty of luxury campers already in situ for the weekend, so somewhat meekly parked van and pitched tents away by the hedge.

The beer tent was indeed open, and on offer was some local beer and cider. Plumping for the latter, the taste and colour could be described as alcoholic IrnBru (though was infact Thatcher’s Cheddar cider). Lethal stuff which made it’s prescence felt the following morning. Got chatting to Tucker from Essex, who turned out to be our camping neighbour and profferer of late night wine glasses of whisky. Luckily sleep beckoned and managed to crawl into the recently acquired £25 1 person tent picked up in the Decathlon in Calais on Thursday night[[Tent is a little cramped, but waterproof and very much fit for purpose. Decathlon are in the UK, but don’t have anywhere near the number of stores they have in France. To be recommended.]].

Maitax

A prompt start to Saturday morning, but with plenty of time till the trial at 3pm, decided to walk the track, before heading off into Coombe Martin for lunch and general blending in which the tourists.

The track is a great natural beast, with an awesome hill with an off camber bend at the bottom. With views of the sea, sweeping turns and natural jumps it must rate up there with the best in the UK. At the bottom turn, reached after descending a v.steep hill, there seemed to a lot of dogs barking in the next field. Turns out these are wolves, so overshooting the bend and crashing through the hedge may not be recommended.

Bolt up Husky

It must be admitted that my appetite for the offer Steak and Ale pie diminished the moment I saw it and combined with the smell from the toilets, decided to er on the side of caution. Back to the track and feeling a lot better for not eating, it was time to get ready for the trial. With Mark on the trusty KT250, Kevin on a recently acquired (monoshock) Fantic, and myself on the TY250 (which isn’t a Majesty).

Classic Trials in the Olympics

With one less shock than myself and Mark, it was decided that Kevin was the winner before we started and form on the day proved correct, despite his best efforts to collect a few 5’s. I managed to break both clutch and then front brake lever perches, subsequently decided to do the last lap and half without the front brake. As normal, it improved my scores.

RT-1 Yamaha

Good mix of sections laid out around the track, including the best laid out in the woods at the bottom of the steep hill. A specific tree stump took most of my marks (and parts from my bike) during the afternoon, but other sections on the slope on the way up and at the top were pretty entertaining and for me, more cleanable. Section 10 was nice, with a couple of rock steps and managed a clean each lap.

After the trail

There was no rush to go and collect the results, with Kevin the probable best of contigent. He was more interested in getting a quick top rattle diagnosis from another Fantic owner. Some discussions about going for a wash in the sea were cutailed by a chill wind blowing in from the Bristol Channel, and also by the lack of suitable swim wear. In the end decamped to the public toilets in Berrynarbour for spruce up prior to the evenings food and live entertainment.

kevin-noyce.jpg

Signing on for the morrow, saw Kevin lined up on the entry list for over 250cc twinshocks next to Graham Noyce, who unfortunately decided not to turn up. Possibily on finding out that Kevin was riding had prompted him to give the meeting a miss, but the clash of the titans wasn’t going to happen at Sloley Park.

We liked this sticker

Kevin borrowed a coat...

A look of relief swept over Mark as the caterers provided a vegeterian option for the evenings curry and after some further discussion around life, the universe and everything around bikes, we then listened to the band for bit. The impromptu, but planned, appearance of Elvis on stage was probably the highlight of the evening, one which was far more downbeat than Friday night’s dash for the cider. Therefore a relatively early night, saw me adjourn to the tent, with some heavy rain now failing on a full and expectant paddock.

Transponders

The Decathlon tent had done it’s job and I arose to the sound on coughing, stretching and other sounds associated with early mornings in a field. Back to the main tent for an excellent cooked breakfast, followed by collecting the (free-of-charge) transponders. A rare sight in classic motocross, saw quite a few people scrabbling around with cable ties looking for the best place to locate them.

The brooding paddock

Anyway, practice time arrived and I made it out in the first session. As expected the slippery green hill was indeed pretty impressive, as was the need to rev the nuts off the 250 to get back out the other side. Alas, this was something I didn’t acheive on the 2nd lap, with the bike stopping about 3/4 of the way up. Bollocks. Managed to push it to the top marshal point, generating a lot of sweat and swearing in the process, before Mark and Kevin arrive to assit with the push back to the paddock.

Sudden piston death

The kickstart had locked, so I suspected a loose clutch nut (happened before) and depositing the bike on it’s side under the gazebo, the pit crew started to remove the clutch cover. 15 minutes later, nothing found, and it was looking more like a top end problem. Bike back upright, exhaust removed and head off. Some slight piston damage (eek!), and removing the barrel found the skirt of the piston completely destroyed. I’d only fitted in Friday, but is was an original MX piston (whilst boost ports, rather than cutaway) and suspected that it also been too loose in the barrel.

As luck with have it, the piston collection was in the van, but no spare barrel. Again, luck was on our side, with no obvious damage to the barrel but it might be a little out of shape. Turned the bike upside down and turned it over, whilst spraying WD40 into the crankcase to remove the piston remants from around the crank. Best fit piston, ring then attached to the conrod and reassembly took place. 2nd kick the bike fired up and run okay, so then headed down to the start line for the 1st race. A 45 minute turn around on the bike wasn’t too bad, especially as we’d lost time looking at the clutch.

Race was okay, but decided today wasn’t the day to push it and took it fairly easy on the first couple of laps, though up the hill, the MX250 was struggling for power. All the other races went to plan, though the bike wasn’t that competitve on what is a ‘large’ track. Three-quarters of the combined pre74 classes were over 250cc and it’s a must for Coombe Martin, as you loose so much time on the hill other wise.

Mark and Kevin had a good tussle in the first >250cc twinshock race, though Mark lost out by coming off somewhere on the last lap. As it was a British Championship round, all the pre68 and pre74 races were quick, and with 80+ twinshock entries in two classes, these races weren’t slow either. 40 bikes on the line actually wasn’t a problem after the first lap and it’s a big wide track.

Kevin on track in race1

Mark and Kevin crossing the finish

The rain of the morning held off for the rest of the day, and after 3 great races, we started to pack up around 16h30 for the drive back to South Wales. An excellent venue, location and organisation, makes the Atlantic Club’s meeting one of the one’s you must do each season. All in all, a good weekend’s racing.

Scherpenheuvel : not quite as planned

Okay, it’s my fault. Not enough time for maintenance and prep, but on the otherhand it seems ill fortune was on my side. The SC500 still needs a bearing and an the subsequent engine rebuild and a the MX250 has also had its woes.

Scherpenheuvel is only 30km from Lier and it’s a good thing too. Practice at 09h00 was cut short by the throttle seizing shut on lap two. The slide in the carb was locked solid, which necessitated replacing it with the spare. First race, saw the non-tuned carb struggle to run underload from the corners and eventually stalling with fuel starvation and not wanting to restart.

Made it to the line for the second race, but by then the clutch was slipping and it gave up the ghost, again on lap two. Not the best meeting for me.

Werner Castelyn and his TM / TS 250

On the plus side, the VMCF meeting was well run, it was an interesting if slightly quicker track than you’d normally find and there was lots going on. Met a couple of the guys who’d I’d chatted to back in February in Telford and discussed the bikes, parts and what might be around in the UK.

Transponder in place

Met with Rudy Bruggeman, who has an interesting penchant for 4-stroke 1970’s Suzuki’s. The bitsa collection has been well put together and is very competitive in the pre-77 class. Whilst his current bike is based around a GN400 engine (yep, that’s a cruiser) and I think an SP370 frame which gives it some height, he’s also got a previously developed bike. This has a DR400 engine, RM front forks and what looks like a Metisse frame. Very much in the pre68 British style, it doesn’t have the large suspension travel of some bikes, but it does have power and plenty of grunt. An interesting bike (and for sale).

An interesting paddock

Quite a few XT’s and TT’s in the paddock, again very much spec’d for the pre77 class. Whilst this hasn’t really caught on in the UK, in Belgium it seems to created a whole range on bikes, based on various 70’s offroad machinery. Also, a plethora of Suzuki models, including TM’s, TS’s, RM’s, GN’s, SP’s and DR’s have morphed themselves into fairly suitable machinery for the flattish, sandy and sometimes quick Belgian tracks. For Pontrilas they might struggle, but at places like Llanthony or Narberth, they’ll be a little more interesting. Mud and sand is where 4-stroke power will win. Given that a beat-up TT is £2000, an HL is a lot more (x5) and a CCM is mind-boggling (x8?), then bitsa bikes make a lot of sense, along with some other weaponery like an XL500 (of which there were a couple at Scherpenheuvel).

Enthusiastic crowd (for practice)

There are a few Triumphs, BSA’s and other British iron in the pre72 class, and people will spend money on early CZ’s, Huskies and Maicos, but it’s nice to see some grass roots stuff. There tradition of 50, 125 and 175 cc racing lives on and there is a healthy class. Mobilette racing (ie 50cc) also happens, which is cheap youth motocross.

For those thinking of racing in Belgium, few other things arising from the meeting:
• scruitineering; bit more serious in the UK and in particular a handlebar pad is needed, the rear brake are needs a lock of some form
• VMCF use transponders, and you can rent one on the day for 10 euro.
• you need numbers on the back of your shirt
• you need the environmental mat to go under your bike whilst there.
• practice and race sessions are on set times, VMCF tend to run the same at each meeting
• you can turn up and ride on the day !

This last point is interesting. The costs of running motocross in Belgium was I thought less than that of the UK, but it seems not. Speaking with Rudy and Werner Castelyns during the day, the ground at Scherpenheuvel had cost the VMCF 4000 euro for the event and the Red Cross (St John’s in the UK also) now charge and are too expensive, so they use a specialist dedicated first aid company.

However, where they win, is that they use the track on two days, Saturday’s for Classics / Old Timers and Sunday’s for modern bikes. They also get catering company’s in to run the bar and they get spectators to an event.

They also charge differently;
• 12 euro (£10) to enter the track, per person whether you are riding or not
• 25 euro (£20) to ride, though that would be less for most registered riders (I think around 5 euro per event), the annual cost is around for 180-200 euro.
• 10 euro (£8) to rent a transponder, though regular riders will have one registered for the season. Not all events need them, the VMCF (Flemish) does for racing in Antwerp and Limburg.

Not saying that their finances are perfect, but there is a strong case for two-day meetings, with classic events on Saturdays and moderns on Sundays. They do grade the track between practice and the heats and there some effort needed. Also, there is a bit of culture clash. Whilst their is the odd large camper or lorry, the Belgian classic contigent have bikes on trailers and stuff into old vans and cars. The more modern bikes arrive in larger campers and you potentially need a heathly sized paddock. Most clubs only run one meeting a year.

Anyway, back to the meeting. Good racing, nice weather and good atmosphere. Recommended place to hang-out if you fancy it.