The Isle of Wight International Scooter Rally is undoubtedly the biggest scooter rally of the year. After a year off thanks to the dreaded lurgy and a touch and go situation leading up to this year’s event, it finally got the green light from Boris just a few weeks before the August Bank Holiday.
This left the new organising team (Steve Foster has stepped back from active duty) with some major obstacles to overcome just to ensure the rally could take place. In part 3 of our mammoth coverage, Booga shares his views and we also catch up with one of the organisers, Tori. Plus there are loads more rally photos from Booga and Shaun Hodgkin.
Anyway, I’m now on the ferry and have bumped into some mates, so we catch up and chat until the ferry docks at Fishbourne, we head our separate ways, them to B&B, me to the campsite.
Originally scheduled to start last year, obviously it didn’t happen because of the pandemic, so this year was completely new for everyone. It’s all a little weird, I think we’re all so used to Smallbrook that any change is going to be a little difficult to deal with, but variety is the spice of life as they say so off to the campsite I go…
Sandown is a little further around the island but is easy to reach from Ryde (after my traditional breakfast at The Coffee Pot in Union Street) and the ride is uneventful.
I reach the rally site and the weirdness kicks in, no bouncing about in the potholes and slipping on the gravel going into Smallbrook, this time it’s bouncing about in the potholes and slipping on the gravel going into Sandown airport, OK, so maybe that’s not really any different.
Camping, however, is different. Instead of heading straight in, it’s a left onto the campsite, you have glamping to your right and your normal camping to your left, the road’s quite bumpy, and the campsite itself pretty potholed, but realistically no worse than quite a few rallies I’ve been to in the past, so it’s just one of those things.
There’s still a good selection of stalls, covering all the usual stuff you expect to see at the rallies, so much so I actually spend some money!
The food stall isn’t very inspiring, but, as I found out later, there were going to be more but unfortunately, they all had to pull out at the last minute due to covid problems.
The onsite bar, which normally charges ‘pilot prices’ (which I guess is more money than us mere mortals can afford) rather sensibly decides to charge more down to earth (see what I did there?) prices for the rally which keeps the bar busy all weekend. The prices were negotiated before the rally by VFM.
The Saturday brings a lot of day-trippers, and they’re all parked together, I don’t know how many scoots came in, but it certainly looked really impressive, and it really sold the rally site to me.
Well that was my rally, was the site perfect? No, but neither was Smallbrook, in fact, it was a shit hole, as anyone who used the toilets can testify.
The VFM crew worked their butts off over the weekend to give us a decent rally, and I thank you all for your hard work. We’ve outgrown Smallbrook, and Sandown Airport has the potential to be a great venue, plus where else can you get a helicopter ride and get a bird’s eye view of the rally?
A view from the other side of the fence
Organising a scooter rally in normal times is a thankless task. Doing the job mid pandemic at a brand new site, dealing with new people, different suppliers and overcoming unexpected obstacles along the way makes things a whole lot more stressful. Remember, all the BSRA events are run by ‘proper’ scooterists, not outside promoters. They do their best to ensure things are as good as they can be for everybody to enjoy.
Here’s what Tori (one of the organisers) has to say about the event…
So Tori, who are ya? Steve Foster, (along with Johnny Bolland) has been the face of VFM for so long, he took the decision to retire from rally organising, and passed the stewardship of the IOW to Daz, Kev and Tori. Although we have all worked alongside Steve for many years, stepping up in the year when everything was ‘new’ was a challenge.
IOW 2021, the first National Scooter Rally since 2019, the first out of lockdown, in what I want to say is post-pandemic, but in reality, is actually still a pandemic environment.
Why did you move from Smallbrook? Quite simply, a large part of the site was no longer available to us, and we could not fit safely, or comfortably in the remaining area. We had to find a new venue, and Sandown Airport was one of the options. The space available to us at Sandown Airport allowed us to spread out and offer new options, i.e the glamping which was really popular. It also gave us the space to deal with the large number of cars and vans that the IOW scooter rally attracts. At Smallbrook parking for non-scooters was always problematic, but at Sandown we were able to easily accommodate them.
How challenging was the weekend? Running this event for the first time at a new venue put us under the spotlight of the authorities, and we were made to jump through a lot of hoops. We had visits over the weekend from all the relevant authorities, at all hours of the day, checking we were complying with the strict conditions they had placed upon us. People might wonder why we were asking campers not to have loud music in the tent area, or to stop riding their scooters around at 3 am – it was all to do with making sure we complied with the licence and the safety criteria that we had to adhere to. We had to put in place extra measures to ensure people’s safety, like sanitising all the silent disco headsets between use, making hand sanitiser available etc. All of this took time, planning and additional staff.
The path ain’t always smooth
Bumpy roads – the Island is known for its poor roads, and the access road to the airport was no exception. As an un-adopted road, no one takes ownership of the maintenance, however, our host did backfill the worst of the potholes, and personally, I found it easier to navigate than the gravel road at the old site. Given that there is a large caravan park, and other businesses further along this road that use it on a daily basis, then there must be some history as to the upkeep or lack of it. The good news is that a developer who is building on the site next to the airport will be resurfacing the road, although we don’t know exactly when.
Food for thought
Having only been given the green light for this event in July we were limited to the number of caterers available, as many were already booked for Reading and Victorious Festivals. As a veggie I have fared badly for food at rallies for over 30 years and wanted to address that by having a veggie option booked, however, they and the crepe stall tested positive for Covid and quite rightly had to cancel. This did leave us short for choice and it will be addressed for future events.
The vast majority of people attending the rally at Sandown said they had loved the new site. We asked for feedback and will take it all onboard. It took a huge amount of work over the weekend, every steward, DJ, litter picker, custom show judge, gate staff, car park attendant is a rally going scooterist, that gave up their time to make sure everyone else had a good weekend. The support, goodwill and commitment from the scooter family to make this event work post-COVID was incredible, and we want to thank everyone that stepped up to help in any way.