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Virtual BCN Challenge 2020: Introduction

Posted by alexgrehyauthor on 12 May, 2020

Tuesday 12th May, 2020

I am way behind with the blog so rather than try to catch up chronologically from where I left off, I’m going to write about an event that we took part in last week – a Virtual BCN Challenge organised by some brave and dedicated folk over on Canalworld Forum.

The event starter on Monday 4th May and would run over the next 6 days.

Here are the rough rules (I’ll spare you the details – the virtual event was no less byzantine than the real thing!):

– We were allowed to ‘virtually’ cruise for 7 hours a day.

– All boats were fitted with an “Automat Sensucht” or time machine, which would allow us to cruise the lost 60 miles of the BCN and flit back and forth in history.

– The cruising and locking speeds were set by the organisers, but as different stretches of canals had different score multipliers it became a game of strategy and planning.

– Mooring was only allowed in certain approved spots, so an important part of the planning was to make it to an approved spot by the end of the day’s cruising or risk incurring penalties.

– Additional points were available for completing daily quizzes and challenges.

– Random additional points were also available for creativity and various other ways of entertaining the judges.

– We decided to fit Indigo Dream with a Geistersammler or Ghost Collector, which would enable us to converse with various historical people along the way – this proved to be a wise decision, but I’ll come to that later.

As always, crew selection was vital to a successful challenge. We were delighted to welcome on board BCN Challenge veterans Emily and greyhound Harmony, who were part of our winning crew in 2018; Christine from nb Ketura who joined us in 2014 and 2017 (coming 3rd both times) and Challenge newbie (but immensely experienced and knowledgeable boater) Simon from nb Scholar Gypsy. It was Saffy greyhound’s first  challenge but Alex had seen it all before and was not impressed – he supported the team by staying in bed all day, every day – he is possibly the only soul alive who wants lockdown to last forever!

Tean Indigo Dream – or more precisely Team Augmented Reality Indigo Dream (ARID)

We arranged a daily team meeting via Zoom and set up a team Whatsapp group for ease of communication. Simon also set up a group email so we could all receive briefings from challenge HQ simultaneously.

As well as the fun of the competition, it was such a joy to spend time with boating friends, especially as the real Indigo Dream has been stranded (safely) on the River Nene since the middle of September – first by floodwater and then by the lockdown. If the world had been anywhere near normal, Indigo Dream would have been in Brussels by now and we’d be having a 3-month cruising sabbatical. The timing of the Virtual BCN Challenge couldn’t have been better as it certainly stopped us from moping and dreaming about what might have been.

We adjusted team roles every day according to the needs of the daily challenges but roughly:

  • Richard and Simon were the routemasters, responsible for calculating the most points-efficient routes and adapting them according to the daily conditions imposed by the judges e.g. stoppages and poor cruising conditions, though on the first day we did allow virtual volunteer lockies to speed up that process.
  • Emily and Christine were the quizmasters – the daily quiz was generally circulated first thing in the morning – they (with the help of the other morning crew) never took more than 30 minutes to complet it.
  • I was nominally the skipper/spokesperson – I was responsible for reporting our results in every day and for maintaining our cruising log on Canalworld Forum. I also undertook many of the week’s challenges and wrote “Tales from the Geistersammler (Ghost collector), which proved to be popular.

Let’s go…

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