Colchester DVLC’s Mersea Island celebrates a quarter century as one of the biggest club rallies in the calendar. SLUK’s roving reprobate Booga covers it for us in words and photos, with additional reporting by Shaun Hodgkin.

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So the evening before I’m due to head off to Mersea and I’m changing the clutch on Hellraiser (never a good thing), though for once everything goes according to plan.

Spares, no repairs

Time to pack the tools away and as I do so I spy the freshly-welded exhaust bracket that I’d had repaired after it snapped a couple of weeks previously. I idly toy with the idea of chucking it in my toolbox ‘just in case’ but quickly dismiss the idea, after all how often do they snap? Then pack my clutch compressor again just in case.

Friday morning arrives, I chuck my gear on the scoot and away I go, on to the A3 where I pick up my riding buddies and continue up towards London. Our plan is to ride straight through London, then on to the A12 up to Mersea.

For once everything goes according to plan. We stop for our last fuel stop in North London before hitting the hell road that is the A12. It truly is the most boring road I’ve ridden, but is a necessary evil if we want to get to Mersea, so off we trot – two P-Ranges, two TS1s and a Dragster down the old Roman road to Colchester.

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Well everything’s going fine, until I hear a metallic scraping sound; I pull over to find that I’ve just had another exhaust bracket snap. To say I’m a little annoyed is a bit of an understatement. I’ll leave you to fill in the expletives, chances are whichever ones you choose they would have been used. Ten minutes of head scratching, then tying a throttle cable inner round the exhaust (thank you Shaw Swanton for the loan of the trunnion to hold the cable tight) and I’m off, limping down the A12.  I finally make it in to Mersea, head down to the campsite, dump my bike rather unceremoniously on its side and pitch my tent.

Mersea 25 years on

For those that haven’t been to Mersea (this year was the 25th so be ashamed of yourselves) the rally is held at an activity centre with a large canteen, hall, food stalls, a marquee for the bands and it is right by the sea. The weather’s been kind all the way up and apart from a light shower just after arriving it looks set to be dry for the weekend. Pretty well first thing for me at any rally is food, and I head straight to the food court to stuff my face. Face stuffed I head back to the tent for a little snooze. Only half an hour, just to recharge… I wake up at 11pm. Damn. I fall asleep again at 11.05pm. Double damn. Oh well tomorrow’s another day.

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Luckily our roving sticker, sticker-upper, Shaun Hodgkin managed to stay up late enough to make some use of Friday…

It’s the weekend after that there Isle of Wight so it must be Mersea Island time again! Sadly work got in the way of an early start so with kit packed & scooter loaded the night before, it was a quick blast through rush hour traffic when the home bell sounded. I never get bored of filtering & pissing off the grumpy, ignorant car drivers!

Arriving at Mersea having beaten the high tide I was greeted by the ever smiling, happy band of DVLC members and the many volunteers that organise the rally and mean that us lot can eat, drink and be very merry and well entertained.

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The next challenge was to find where the usual suspects had placed their erections. Thankfully a gamble on the usual spot paid off and within minutes there was a drink in hand and my own little erection was alongside theirs just as dark started to fall.

Darkside fever

The other reason for the mad dash to Mersea was to join the queue outside the cabin which is the rally home of the Darkside. This is the annual queue to buy the all new Darkside t-shirt, which has become a tradition alongside the Darkside tent & silent disco.

It was great to bump into DJ & thoroughly nice chap, Chevy & join him in celebrating his big 6-0!

Ageing DJs entertain statues and special friends in the Darkside marquee
Ageing DJs entertain statues and special friends in the Darkside marquee

T-shirt in hand a wander back through the hustle and bustle of the courtyard area between the bar, marquee & food stalls showed that Mersea was going to be busy again this year. As usual attracting clubs from all over the UK & fair few from over the water. The regular large German contingent had secured their usual camping spot.

The bands were well received on Friday with the marquee heaving throughout. Over the weekend you could see The Modern Apes, The Koolkatz, The Lagan (who also entertained after their raucous set with a jamming session outside), The Get-Go and The Small Fakers. On top of that was the soul room & canteen. A quick guy rope dodging walk back across the camping area and there were still groups of scooterists choosing to do what they do so well, making their own alcohol fuelled entertainment by their tents. That’s another great thing about Mersea, so much choice!

The personal reg money can't buy...
The personal reg money can’t buy…

After chatting usual scooterist bollocks and banter in the bar area and distributing a few SLUK & ScooterNova stickers my personal choice was to wobble back to the very busy Darkside tent, which at one point was so busy it was full & had a queue outside that would have filled it again! (Maybe a bigger tent needed next year?)

I and it would appear many others will never tire of the silent disco. Even the DJs have a great time trying to get the most headphones lit up on their channel!

Time flies by when you’re having fun and the early hours of Saturday morning signalled time for some kip. Unfortunately the sunshine signalled time for that kip to be very short! Emerging tired, grumpy and hungover from a tent on a rally ready to do it all again is not too bad, but sadly I’d got to get home Saturday afternoon, so some breakfast and a sneak peak in the excellent & busy custom show before a wander around the stalls was needed.

The recently revamped Top Banana
The recently revamped Top Banana

After chatting to John & Mikey on the JB Tuning/Casa stall I felt better as I was reminded of the fast approaching Cadwell Park scooter racing season finale! If you’re not at Woolacombe rally why not pop along to see some truly fast scooters?

Amongst the many stalls Scomadi had the 400 prototype on show which drew a lot of interest. Both the LCGB & VCB had stalls to promote their marques. It’s there that I bumped in to and handed over the rally report baton back to Booga!

Shaun Hodgkin

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Booga wakes from his food coma…

Saturday dawns and I’m up for breakfast, and join the queue to the canteen. Breakfast done I wander round the parts fair, catch up with friends and just take in the morning sun. Back to reality and I have to think about getting my exhaust bracket sorted. Thankfully there’s an on-site garage who, in between major scooter rebuilds manage to weld it, so all I have to do is fix it later.

Vomit fest

I take a walk round the custom show, which is, as ever, a great standard. I don’t envy the judges. Time for the Fun And Games. Again for those that haven’t been to Mersea (why not?) it’s famous for it’s Fun And Games. Actually infamous might be a better description, once seen, never forgotten. Tug Of War, Chucky Egg, the notorious Beer and Banana, the list goes on, and it’s hysterical to watch, though I don’t think I’ll ever participate.

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Full and fixed

Scooter fixing time. That done it’s time for beer, then food, then more beer, then more food. That becomes the theme for the evening. The bands start and I try and stick my head in to the marquee but that’s as far as I get coz it’s rammed solid in there, all is not lost though as the music wafts its way out of the marquee and drifts right across the campsite, it’s actually quite a good way of listening to the bands and adds to the atmosphere.

After eating, chatting, drinking it’s time for bed and I drift off to sleep after enjoying a typically excellent Mersea Island rally. There’s been a few comments about numbers being down, perhaps, but it still had a great atmosphere and had a large continental contingent as well as a fair few younger riders. So I think Colchester DVLC are still getting it right.

Here’s to next year!

Words and photos: Booga and Shaun Hodgkin

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Custom show results

Best Cutdown/Oddity/Chopper – Reg 737 XUK
Best Street Racer – Atoms Vespa – Reg NA02 CZC
Best Vintage – Model F, Reg 906 UXM
Best Original Vespa – Rally 200, Reg MGU 57P
Best Original Lambretta – Li Special, Reg WWA 135F
Best Vespa Restoration – Rally 200, Reg LFL 240L
Best Lambretta Restoration – Model F, Reg 906 UXM
Best Engineered – Reg B753 JPB
Best Brightwork – Dazzle
Best Custom Paintwork – Start Me Up
Punters Choice – Start Me Up
Best Auto – Why Be Normal
Best Vespa – Twisted Attraction
Best Lambretta – Discworld
Best of Show (Phil Rudkin) – Spitfire

Games

Tug Of War – Johny Cash SC

Ice T – Destitutes A Team

Egg Throwing – Odd Bods

Wheel Me Over – Do Overs

Beer & Banana – Destitutes A Team

Sponge Bob Wet Pants – Do Overs

Where’s Me Beer – Logistical Nightmares

Over All Winning Team – Joint winners Destitutes A Team & Do Overs

Dyno Results

Fastest Vespa – Mr A Gaff 82mph

Fastest Lambretta (joint winners) – S Munns & J Grieve 82mph

Fastest Auto – Connor Eastlow 78mph

VIDEO | Mersea Island 2017 images by Toby Read-Groves

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