Form Guide Midcon 2018 - read it and weep

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Re: Form Guide Midcon 2018 - read it and weep

Postby Jack007 » 01 Nov 2018, 21:20

Not enough.

I once saved the life of the big and famous Fiat boss and politician Gianni Agnelli. That came so:
(attention, lengthy)

In my younger years I was a skilled and experienced white water kayaker. I also occasionally worked as a guide for rafting companies, one of which was acting in the Engadin, a Swiss high-altitude alpine Valley, where lies St Moritz, too, a playground of the international jet-set.

The company had organised a special tour on the Inn river for Agnelli and his fur wearing entourage, who flew in by private jet. After their landing at the Pontresina airstrip, they first had a Champagne aperitif, our course. While we prepared the boats on the nearby river bank. We had a raft for 6 persons and two inflatable canoes for 1 or two persons. I was detached to guide the two canoes. My friend Severin would guide the raft, and Juri, the boss of the rafting company would drive the minibus down to the disembarkment place, about 10 miles downriver, loaded with the non-rafting ladies, several pekinese-style doggies and the clothes of the brave paddlers.

You must know that the upper Inn is a powerful fast-running river, known in kayaker circles as the King of alpine whitewater rivers, with several difficult and inapproachable gorges further down. But the section we had choosed for our guests was rather easy, mainly white water of the 2nd difficulty level, with 2 or 3 spots of the 3rd degree. The water is extremely cold, under 4° Celsius, as it comes directly from the surrounding glaciers, but otherwise nicely blue and clear, and the landscape is simply stunning.

We kayakers know about the dangers of the cold water, giving you only 5-10 minutes of acting time, if you'd fall unprotected into the water, before you get stiff and unable to move and inevitably condemned to drowning. So we always wear thick wetsuits, semidry jackets, life-vests and -most important - helmets. We would never take a fellow paddler with us to the river, who has forgotten his helmet at home.

Anyway, as said, we were preparing the boats, inflating them, sorting and laying out all the gear etc., while they had their aperitif, which in fact was just one mistake more in a row of wrong decisions. Finally they arrived at the embarkment place. It turned out that Agnelli, who was then already nearly 70 years old and not very sporty, and a business friend of him, in his fifties, wanted to drive the inflatable canoes, while the others would take a seat in the raft.

Okay, I said, then I suggest I'll go with Agnelli in one canoe, and his friend alone in the other. But no, with that Agnelli was not content. He wanted to paddle in the same canoe with his friend, and he was used to be the boss. My concerns didn't count, and also Juri was on his side, as he didn't want to renounce to the money Agnelli was paying for the tour. Okay then, I decided to take my own, well equipped, heavy white water PE kayak, instead of the less agile inflatable, and I took it off the roof of my car and prepared everything.

Then it was time for the security instructions and explication of how to handle the gear. But they loughed only, not interested at all. Agnelli even refused to put on his wetsuit and stuff. Finally, after discussions and as a "compromise" he agreed to put on the neoprene longjohn, but only the legs while the upper part hung loose behind his back. With no jacket and the life west open he entered the rear of the canoe. I shout at him: put on your helmet or I'd refuse to guide you down. His friend climbed to the front seat and without waiting to my sign pushed the bow out into the pulling steam, and off they went. At least the business friend had put on the gear, though he had no idea how to use it nor how to paddle.

I was completely perplex as I saw them go, and hurried to get into my kayak and follow them, as they had already made 300 meters until I swung into the stream. After paddling like a bull I eventually reached them. The current was flat but fast, so they thought that's easy, and they were in the best mood. Agnelli had put off his helmet, his friend opened the zip of his wetsuit, and they laughed triumphantly at me like saying: see, it's easy, no need to care at all. He even pulled out a half full bottle of Champagne, he had saved from the buffet, and they were singing and drinking.

It came as it had to. The first 3rd degree mini rapid approached, the boat was not lined up, though I tried to push it straight with the tip of my kayak. But of no avail, the countercurrent caught them from the broad side, filled the canoe with water. Agnelli fell backward out into the icy water, while his friend managed to stay in the boat, but now had his testicles freezing as he sat in the water till the belly, with open longjohn.

At least he was still in the boat, so I let him go and concentrated myself on Agnelli. I reached him and put the rescue line around the shoulder part of his life-west and pulled him with all my forces to the shore and placed him by a big rock where he could find grip and would be able to reach the hard by own force. As I thought.. but not. Maybe 15 meters downstream I could land myself, jump out of the kayak, throw boat and stuff high onto the bank. I wanted to run alongside down to catch Agnelli's friend with the heaving line and pull him ashore.

A last glance back to Agnelli, who I thought was safe, and I saw him still hanging on that rock where I had deposed him 2 minutes ago. He stared at me with wide open eyes, his skin was something between pale and blue. His forces were exhausted, and I saw him slowly sinking backward into the currant again. With two jumps I was by him, snatched his arm and brutally ripped him over the rocks to a little stretch with sand. He was completely cooled down already.

I had a sweatshirt in a drypack in the kayak which I pulled him over, but with no great effect. I rubbed and warmed him as good as I could. Luckily the raft arrived at last, and I got some help from Severin. At the nearby road we could stop also the minibus on his way down, and Agnelli was placed between the pekinese dogs and wrapped with all the ladies furs.

Agnelli's friend luckily was washed into an eddy a few hundred meters down, still sitting in the icy cocktail, bathing testicles, and holding himself and the boat desperately at a big stone. We freed him of his difficult situation. He must have had big pain down there, but nevertheless he wanted to continue the journey with the raft, where the "crew" was observing the drama with big eyes.

The raft set off with Severin, Agnelli was with Juri in the bus on the way downriver, and I secured what of the material was present, in order to pick it up later. Then I got into the kayak and paddled alone, watching out in every eddy and collecting a paddle here, a helmet there etc., and I succeeded to regain the most of the material. Only the the bottle with - as I hoped - a little rest of the expensive Champagne remained lost. :(

After this adventure, Gianni Agnelli lived for another 15 years or so and died in 2004, I believe. I got never a reward, nor did I ask for one. I was only a little rafting guide for 100 Swiss Francs a day, though one with a diploma as M.D. Agnelli didn't know my name nor who I was, we never met again. But I kept connected with him mentally and observed every move of his glamorous life. At some time he was the most powerful and influential man of Italy.

Fin

(a bit lengthy, sorry, I'll put it into spoilers then)

Jack007


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Re: Form Guide Midcon 2018 - read it and weep

Postby Phlegmatic » 02 Nov 2018, 01:17

Strategus wrote:
Phlegmatic wrote:I flew a DC10 above Greenland when I was 12, is that random enough?? Not sure it beats Jimmy Nail though.

You actually FLEW it, or flew IN it?


I totally flew it!! Autopilot off and everything!
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Re: Form Guide Midcon 2018 - read it and weep

Postby Strategus » 02 Nov 2018, 08:39

Phlegmatic wrote:
Strategus wrote:
Phlegmatic wrote:I flew a DC10 above Greenland when I was 12, is that random enough?? Not sure it beats Jimmy Nail though.

You actually FLEW it, or flew IN it?


I totally flew it!! Autopilot off and everything!

Awesome! :D
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Re: Form Guide Midcon 2018 - read it and weep

Postby Strategus » 02 Nov 2018, 08:42

How did you manage to get that opportunity?
The Devil makes work for idle forces

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Re: Form Guide Midcon 2018 - read it and weep

Postby Big Gun » 02 Nov 2018, 09:32

That's quite an amazing story Jack. You deserved a reward. People like that can be so ignorant and ungrateful. Anyway - job well done!
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Re: Form Guide Midcon 2018 - read it and weep

Postby Jack007 » 02 Nov 2018, 11:20

Big Gun wrote:That's quite an amazing story Jack. You deserved a reward. People like that can be so ignorant and ungrateful. Anyway - job well done!


Yes sure, Big Gun. But that is not the point. After all, Agnelli was paying for the tour, and gratitude wasn't part of the contract.

What amazed me the most - and still does - is how firmly the experience linked him to my brain, for years. It was one of the main reasons for my special interest in Italian lifestyle and politics, which lasts till today. And this is my reward.

But if you insist, you may reward me tonight with a craft from the draft. :D
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Re: Form Guide Midcon 2018 - read it and weep

Postby Phlegmatic » 02 Nov 2018, 11:39

Strategus wrote:How did you manage to get that opportunity?


You know that bit in the film Airplane where the kid goes into the cockpit? That was me!

British Caledonian DC10, sometime around 1986. Middle of a night flight across the Atlantic, somewhere over the tip of Greenland. Bored pilots decided to invite bored kids up to the flight deck (ah, the good old days!)
I sat in the co-pilot's chair, they turned off autopilot, I banked very gently to the left to correct the course, they switched the autopilot back on, job done!

However, having just read Jack's story, I think he's solo'd this thread... :D
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Re: Form Guide Midcon 2018 - read it and weep

Postby Strategus » 02 Nov 2018, 18:29

Nearly there...

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Re: Form Guide Midcon 2018 - read it and weep

Postby Strategus » 02 Nov 2018, 20:33

This is my fave dog - Crazy Clara
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The Devil makes work for idle forces

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