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Round Britain Coastal Drive 2016 - Stages 15 - 18

Stage 15 (Day 15)

My apologies for not writing this at the beginning of the day but I had to do BBC TV and radio stuff early on which delayed me fatally, though did my ego no harm! I am now at the end of Day 16 and due at this evening’s dinner in two minutes’ time.

So Day 15 was rather different, again. The section after leaving Bridlington was good fun, with short and long straights and some serious bends. In fact, it seemed like the day of the 90 degree corners, with much gear changing up and down the ‘box. Then we hit traffic heading for Hull and the Humber Bridge. The Lincs countryside redressed the balance back in favour of good driving.

At one stage, I went past The White Horse pub and – you will not believe this – went round a bend to see two white horses being ridden along the road. I heard one rider say, ‘That’s three of them’ which was useful, as it confirmed I was on correct route! A few miles on, I went past The Black Horse pub. I did not see any black horses, but I did see a black dog. A few miles on, I passed The Bay Horse – obviously the horses round there like their pubs!

The heroes of day, who wore the Yellow Jersey (caps), were Ian Wotton and Jonathan Hick who have raised no less than £3000. Brilliant.

Above: Stage leaders – Ian Wotton & Jonathan Hick

As to the weather, it was all too good to be true and could not last. Just after Skegness, I was caught in an absolute cloudburst – whipped hood up and, while doing so, the right hood clamp fell apart, water pouring in, eventually managed to re-thread the hook into its home but towels needed everywhere. It rained hard from thereon. The wipers were doing a reasonable job apart from one spot. That spot? Right in front of my eyes!

Long day – 242 miles – no lunch, and curiously saw little sea today. I want my money back!

Finally arrived in Cromer, birthplace of Malcolm Sayer and his daughter Mary gave a fascinating talk after dinner.

Stage 16 (Day 16)

I had the great pleasure of Mary Sayer riding with me for the day. Mary, as previously mentioned, is the daughter of E-type designer Malcolm Sayer. I made Mary work hard as the satnav route was not always spot on and an old-fashioned concept called a map proved rather useful. Over 30 cars gathered at the start at Cromer, a fine tribute to the unique Malcolm Sayer. It was good to also have his very enthusiastic grandson Sam with us. An impressive convoy headed off at 10am. Our Yellow Jersey (caps) were again two chaps: brothers Rick and Bruce Bourne, two of no less than three brothers participating.

Above: Brothers Rick and Bruce Bourne

Following the coast was very rewarding as we visited a succession of delightful towns and villages. Southwold and Aldeburgh stood out for us as exceptional. We both particularly appreciated all the muted red brick buildings in this area. Weather was great again and actually quite hot at times. A road closure inconvenienced us but Mary soon navigated us round and back on to the route. All the twists and turns, and some filming requirements, put us a little behind schedule and then, of course, all the pubs had stopped serving food. We finally found a very rural watering hole where the owner took pity on us and kindly made some sandwiches.

Above: Mary Sayer at Southwold

Throughout I have had two constant companions from the animal kingdom: the Sturgess Group kangaroo, who never complains, and my resident mouse who now squeaks rather less frequently. Indeed, touch wood, we now co-habit in harmony.

What was left of the afternoon consisted of some main road routes and B roads as we headed for Maldon and a reception at J.D Classics. Not surprisingly, our E-type crews were incredibly impressed by the J.D Classics operation which just keeps expanding and is truly amazing. The day had a perfect ending when Derek Hood, who has built up and runs J.D Classics, handed over a company cheque for £5000 – yet another example of the wonderful support we have enjoyed.

Above: Simon Hemsley giving a helping hand

Above: Finish at J.D Classics

Stage 17 (Day 17)

The penultimate day. The Mayor flagged us away from the start at J.D Classics in Maldon and our great host Derek Hood was there to wish us well. The sun was shining. We had over 20 cars. It was really warm. We were asked to go down the High Street as the media had said we would be doing so. We even had little crowds on street corners. Lots of goodwill. Some 160 miles today with a deadline of 3.30pm for an assignation with a drone at the White Cliffs of Dover. This meant no lunch for me as the time was tight if one was going to do the proper route. In fact, my satnav was a little too enthusiastic today and took the coastal drive principle too literally. Without a navigator, I could not know when to overrule it so it took me out to Canvey Island and back on the same roads, and repeated the exercise for Sheerness. Interesting experiences, though. Initially, it had all been dual carriageway, and I thought it was going to be going to be absolutely ghastly, but then the route diverted towards the coast and found small lanes and places of character. After Sheerness, there was a lot of traffic for many miles and it was rather boring. I reflected at the end of the day that it is actually more tiring to be in slow traffic than pressing on. Later, it improved considerably again. Around Ramsgate, the dreadful British road surfaces finally got to poor old CRY which developed a horrible loud rattle. I wondered what was about to drop off. So near, surely we can’t fall at almost the final hurdle. It was a bonnet catch which had sprung open. Thank God.

With occasional stops and examination of the map, I was trying to memorise the sequence of towns: I thought I will have no problem remembering ‘Sandwich, Deal’!

I was then taken (full marks satnav) to a great little coastal route which was actually a toll road between Sandwich and Deal. Deal is a delightful place.

People are asking if we will do it again, my stock answer is, ‘Definitely, but not next week’. I am starting to relax a little and feeling proud of what we have ALL achieved. What comes over is the wonderful atmosphere and fact that everyone is pulling together.

Nearly there. One stage to go. Up at 5.30 to write this. Off to start at 6.30. Leaving at 8.00 today to be at Goodwood, we hope, by midday. Nearly there!

Stage 18 (Day 18) The final day was pretty tough. Julie, Louise, Simon and I kept to our early morning schedule as outlined in yesterday’s blog, only to arrive at the steel gates at the venue for the previous night’s finish and meal, and where we had left various cars, including CRY, to find the gates shut and no-one answering the intercom. This in spite of having arranged access and phoning the hotel. You can possibly imagine my mental state at that moment. After much shouting, they finally opened the cursed gates.

By this stage, as we collected in a field opposite with lovely views (in theory), the weather was closing in. Initially, it was just spitting (no manners the weather round here). With over 70 cars participating in this stage (a record), they started pouring in, which was a stirring sight. Our deadline was the Goodwood circuit where we had been offered a concluding lap of the circuit (providing it was not raining) if the timings worked because a client had hired the track for the day. Our ‘window’ was to be somewhere between midday and 2pm, to be decided.

With early morning traffic and a route of something like 150 miles, it was going to be quite a challenge, hence the earlier-than-usual start. Multi-tasking, as ever, and so short of time, I did a live radio interview while video’ing the cars arriving. It was then into CRY and off. The rain was now getting worse and the views had been cancelled. Initially, the coastal route took me (I was on my own – both in the car and on the road) through what appeared to be marshlands (not sure as couldn’t see them) before finally reaching the main A259. I then headed off again for the coast towards Lydd. As this time, I was trying to use a combination of satnav, road signs and my overview notes. Then the signs ran out; then satnav became confused. The route mileage suddenly went up from 117 to 127. Was I going the wrong way? No pressure.

I was also agonising over whether I had enough fuel for the whole journey because I did not have time to stop. I also had to rendezvous with the film crew en route. I turned round and headed for Lydd Town Centre which seemed to impress satnav with regard to distance but not timing which now showed an arrival time of 1-47pm. No pressure. It was now raining quite hard. My notes, though tucked under my right thigh so they would not fly away, were getting wet. I regained the A259 and satnav told me to turn right – inland. Not helpful.

Then, my dictaphone batteries ran out and I had to search in my camera bag for replacements and do the necessary swap. Not easy. Around the same time – I was keeping busy – I rebooted the satnav in the hope of getting it onside again. The mileage started to come down but the arrival time began to go up, in spite of proceeding at a reasonable pace. Curious logic.

I stopped for a quick dash behind the hedge and realised the rain was now heavy and driving. I considered putting up the hood but insanity prevailed. The bleak seafront wall on my left gave way to a super stretch of road through Fairlight, which had a few very sudden, tight corners to keep me awake. Through the wooded sections, it was almost pitch black. Rain was sploshing off the trees. Water was dripping from the top of the screen on to my knees. Soggy knees are not one of life’s great pleasures. I was getting cold and realised I should have put on my waterproof but had had so much on mind at the start. However, I must have set a ‘competitive time’ through the twisty stuff as the arrival time came down a little. Meanwhile, I was regularly on the phone re. the film crew rendezvous spot.

Talking of multi-tasking, throughout the last 18 days I have been juggling satnav, phone, maps, cleaning sunglasses, taking several thousand photos, doing my pelvic exercises, making notes on my dictaphone, occasionally apply sun cream, oh, and driving. Noticing the top of the dashboard was dusty. I dealt with this. So, I have even done the dusting! Not bad for a male?

The rain eased a little in Hastings and after Bexhill, I stopped for a fuel ‘splash and dash’ and gained a cameraman passenger who, rather disconcertingly, proceeded to film me from every angle. Should I smile (and look inane), appear stressed and harassed (not a good image) or maintain no expression whatsoever (and look boring)? Life is full of such decisions. Of course, the poor chap, could not do much filming of our progress as the conditions were utterly bleak with the cloud base seemingly at ground level.

On we went and finally we arrived, in sunshine, at Goodwood about 12.30, mercifully in time for our slot which was now to be at 1pm. The man who briefed us pointed out we had a very short window as the track had been hired by paying clients at which I had to point out we were also paying for the privilege. ‘Yes, sir, but only for 15 minutes’.

Above: Photo copyright James Mann

We proceeded behind his pace car in strict single file as forcefully instructed. In spite of the low speed, everyone seemed to enjoy the experience and we then had a very jolly gathering at which I said a few words and expressed our very sincere thanks to many.

As to CRY, the old girl performed magnificently. By the end I was struggling to obtain reverse without a horrible crunching but otherwise had no real problems. As to me, after 18 days and around 4,000 miles, I felt pretty good. I had had an eye problem one afternoon and a few back spasms but my ankle, which I sprained about a fortnight before the start, held up very well. Ironically, today I can hardly walk on it! Timing is everything.

As to the fund-raising, this will go on for a while. Ross Brawn, who very kindly joined us for this last stage and has just bought Martin Brundle’s Eagle E-type (making three E-types in his stable), very generously said he would make up any shortfall to ensure we reached our £50,000 target. Fantastic.

I have stressed three things throughout this whole adventure. It was a massive learning-curve. All the hard work was done by Louise and our colleagues in our brilliant E-type Club office, and I was supported massively by my wife Julie. Above all though, this was a team effort: sponsors, Supporters, Prostate Cancer UK, colleagues and over 200 great participants, plus all those who have donated. The atmosphere throughout this pioneering event has been wonderful and the camaraderie inspiring. There will be a film and copies will be available to purchase. We will run the event again. Oh, and the main rule throughout? Keep the wet stuff on the left!

We are a team. We have done it together. WE DID IT.


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