A Hunt of Two Halves
Harpers Hunt had 16 entries this year, the biggest to date, and was therefore held on two Sundays to comply with MSA Rules.
Well into the planning, I realised that this years theme was making itself obvious! As you may have read in "History of The Hunt", it was inspired in part by an episode of The Avengers called "Dead Mans Treasure" that I watched as a child. While scouring the Kent countryside for new and interesting places to take you to this year, I happened across a bungalow prominently signed (FOUR of them!) and named after the Gone With The Wind plantation. Tara also happens to be the Christian name of Steed's third female sidekick. The Penny started its descent here and fell to earth with the most obvious of thuds while re-watching Dead Mans Treasure on DVD, in which the fictional hunt went through a fictional village called Galding. A trip to Yalding (and the oh-so-British Teapot Island) had been on my list of places to take the Hunt for years, and it was decided from the start that THIS was going to be the year! How odd is that?
Having decided this years Theme, the question was how far to take it? We knew certain regulars enjoyed dressing up for the Hunt, so asking them to dress to a theme to win Points seemed an all too appropriate Challenge. We were not disappointed. A lot of effort is put into planning each Hunt, and it was more than matched by the Teams this year. Hunters really excelled themselves in the
"Look Like An Avenger" Challenge. They did far more than was asked and clearly enjoyed this new dimension. Those who didn't dress for the occasion obviously enjoyed the efforts of those who did. Definitely a feature of future Hunts!
Another new feature this year was sending Hunters on their way with the wave of a Union Jack.
This little bit of Britishness, the traditional way of starting a car event, again featured in
Dead Mans Treasure. It also had the bonus that it spared some the past embarrassment departing prematurely and having to return to the start to find the first clues...
Also new this year was our Facebook page, which we used to produce a teaser campaign to drip-feed information about what would be required of Hunters. Daily updates in the weeks leading up to the 7th gradually revealed the Theme and the Challenges that would require preparation in advance. A few Hunters made it clear they didn't "do" Facebook, but I really enjoyed devising the posts, and it is well worth the minimal effort of signing up just for The Hunt!
Yet another First was giving myself the unenviable challenge of awarding points for the cars Teams arrived in. Initially intended to encourage use of more "Interesting" vehicles, it quickly evolved into a key part of this years theme. We had a Classic Mini, two Land Rover Defenders, a Dakar 4x4 (British despite the name, and based on Range Rover running gear), a beautiful Jaguar Racing Green XJ6, a Triumph Stag, a Ford Escort Estate, two gorgeous VW Karmann Ghia coupes, a VW Transporter, a BMW MSport Coupe, a Saab 94, and the long overdue return of North Kent Lotus Group's John Underhay in his M100 Élan. The Avengers celebrated all things British, including eccentricity. It was a classic TV series. So we couldn't help but give points for being British, Classic, and Quirky! As Avengers fans know, Lotus cars were the non-human stars of the show. Two Elans (white then metallic blue) and a red Europa were heavily featured. If you HAD turned up this year in a classic Lotus (especially a white baby DHC...) you would have instantly won the event!!!
The final First this year was the introduction of the Trabby Trophy for the Team that didn't exactly win. We like to think that on Harpers Hunt everyone is a winner!
Heat 1 on September 7th saw us with the maximum number of cars allowed on a set route event.
Having requested arrival from 10.30 to give us a chance to set up, Teams eventually got away, at one minute intervals, all gone by midday, one hour later than intended! The mid-point was reached by most around two hours later (as expected) and all made it to the Finish by 16.30.
Heat 2 was a slightly different kettle of crabs. Five Teams were expected until 23.30 on Saturday, when the first of two apologies were texted. But the morning showed promise when Team Parfitt arrived in their XJ6, with their baby daughter, our youngest ever contestant. Second to arrive was Stephen Cummings who was to partner John Underhay in the Lotus. Stephen had been wanting to take part since 2009 but for many reasons this was his initiation. John U arrived next, and last was Tim Block in his red Saab V4. Tim has also been a long time coming, having been invited to the first Hunt like Stephen. I was expecting a blue Saab, based on the fact that that was the colour of the car I invited along in 2009, but we discovered Tim is a serial buyer of old Saabs.
Everyone was full of enthusiasm at this second Briefing, which I kept brief as two out of the three Teams were not really first timers. But I'm ashamed to say I realised later that I had left out a few vital pointers, to the disadvantage of Team Block. Advice such as "don't think you have to do or find everything, and don't go back to look for missed clues"...
We sent them away, as usual, in order of experience: Team Block first, then Parfitt, then Underhay. We decided this time to follow them around the route rather than make our way directly to the halfway meeting point, and caught up with Team Parfitt at the first clue, just after the first route instruction, and then with Team Block, who were looking in the wrong place for the second clue. They caught up with us at the next clue, as did Team Parfitt, who said Team Underhay hadn't passed them. We therefore deduced that Team Underhay had missed the very first route instruction to turn right. Despite several attempts to call John and Stephen on each of the mobile numbers we had for them, we got no reply. We made our way to the first village where multiple clues were to be searched for. No sign of the Saab. We thought they were cracking on at a suspiciously swift pace. Had we failed to recognise that Tim was actually Stig Blomqvist? We waited for quite a while for the Jag. When it failed to appear I feared the worst: That their youngest was not finding the experience a pleasant one and they had quit as a result. And the Lotus was still AWOL. I began to think John and Stephen had not found their pairing to their liking and had abandoned their attempt. We pressed on to the halfway point and had our drink alone.
No Saab. No Lotus. No Jag. No phone calls to tell us what was going on. All very worrying. After waiting for two hours, just in case, we were about to make our way to The White Rock and apologise to Frank the Landlord, when an elated Élan owner came through the door, pleased as punch with their teamwork and the contribution Stephen was making. After a good long chat with them both, we handed over the Part 2 questions. And then the Jag arrived! We now met the fourth member of Team Parfitt for the first time. Somehow we had completely failed to spot Tim's father-in-law doing baby-minding duties in the back seat. The great news was that all four, including baby Ela, we're enjoying the Hunt immensely! We tried in vain several times to make contact with the Saab. It had been first away. Tim was evidently enjoying it all when we had caught up with him. Yet again I feared the worst. Had they had an accident? Had they found it all too challenging and thrown in the towel? Had they just got bored? No!!! They had managed to miss several clues, turned round to go back for them, and THEN got hopelessly lost. They finally made it to the halfway point at around 15.00. We handed them Part 2, bid them a hasty farewell, and said we would see them at the Finish. We didn't. But they did send us a wonderful text message to explain.
2014: Very much a Hunt of Two Halves!
13th Team Ashwood (77 Points) combining talents with most of Team Howard and showing a pleasing return to form by coming last once again. Nobody comes last better. Very deserving Winners of the new Trabby Trophy!!!
12th Team Underhay (104 Points) proved that it's not the winning but the fun of the run that counts.
=10th Team Hartley (106 Points) enjoyed their first Hunt and added a splash of colour in their Karmann Ghia.
=10th Team Almandras. A good effort by our other first time Hunters. They enjoyed it and will return to make a more serious attempt next year!
9th Team Gambit (111 Points) A welcome return by our youngest Hunters (you may be facing a challenge for that title next year if Ela is walking by then...)! Thank you for bringing the senior members of your family out for the day. We hope they were not too much trouble!
8th Team Graves (112 Points) continue to build on their previous experience and will pose a serious challenge in future Hunts
7th Team Parfitt (113 Points) not doing as well as I'm sure Tim had hoped, but enjoying their third Great Day Out in the Jag nonetheless!
6th (122 Points) Another solid performance by Team Thorpe! Still not sure whether you were dressed as Steed or not Chris...
5th (133 Points) Chay McMahon did really well despite dropping points for being in one of the least appropriate cars, and failing to dress the part. YOURS was the Team that really inspired the idea of dressing up as a Challenge this year Chay, and you didn't! Why???
4th Team Richardson (151 Points) Our most impressively accessorised Team! Clearly I am not the only one on whom Dead Mans Treasure made a lasting impression!
3rd Mike McMahon and mates! (160 Points) He and dad Tracey quite decently and correctly suggested that we must cap points for fancy dress to two team members as otherwise the larger Teams would have an unfair advantage over the duo's. True, and very British to point it out! Mike further screwed up any chance of winning this year by gallantly making a few roadside repairs during the day to the car that won...
2nd (175 Points) and only beaten by the result of our first ever Tiebreaker question. Another very impressive performance by Tracey McMahon and family!
The Winners (yet again!) are of course Team Samwell, making it an impressive three in a row! They made this old man VERY happy...
I hope to build numbers attending the Hunt by offering a choice of dates to would-be entrants, and by far the best way to attract new Teams it seems is by personal recommendation. As ever, I am deeply indebted to Mike McMahon and his family and friends for turning up from far and wide and in ever increasing numbers. Thanks too to Chris Thorpe, who does his level best to promote the Hunt to members of his Sussex Area Club Lotus Group, as well as the Vauxhall VX220 and Triumph Stag Owners Clubs, to John Underhay for trying to get NKLG members to have a go, and to Clive Richardson for promoting our little event to VWKG and Porsche enthusiasts.
Some who didn't come this year, seemed put off by the dressing up aspect. They felt it unfairly reduced their chances of winning. For others, it is not a sufficiently "serious" event to warrant their participation. Whatever happened to that old British idea that it's not Winning but taking part that counts? To me, the diverse nature and range of our Questions and Challenges adds to the fun, and means the end result is never a foregone conclusion. Anyone can win! As far as I am concerned, the only way you lose is by not taking part. And as I was reminded recently when visiting the museum in Duns, Jim Clark first got the idea that cars can be fun by entering Treasure Hunts with his dad...
We learned a lot this year (and THAT will be a major factor in Harpers Hunt 2015...)
We think it's the most fun you can have in your car with your clothes on.
We may never hold a better Hunt than this years, but we'll have a bloody good go!