This year 89th Bremore Scouts qualified for the Phoenix Challenge for the first time. It was our third attempt. That's pretty good going. The Phoenix Challenge is the National Campcraft and Scouting competition. This year, it was being held in Cork and the theme was "The Day After Tomorrow".
For various reasons, we didn't get in nearly as much training as we would have like to. In fact, we got in hardly any. We knew that we were not contenders by any means, but we wanted to improve on our efforts from the Shield in May. We also wanted to see what all the fuss was about and experience the event for ourselves. No patrol from Bremore had been previously and so there was little to no gravitas in our group associated with going to a Phoenix. So there was no pressure either.
Our site was redesigned from our Shield site and we added a few new gadgets. Unfortunately, we didn't get time to practice building them, but sure, how difficult could it really be????
We traveled down to Cork with the other participating groups from Fingal Scout County - Balbriggan, Lusk, and Rush. Fiona and Sean came on the bus. Brendan drove down with a trailer full of our gear.It turn out that the most challenging hurdle of the weekend was the Dublin Traffic. It was horrendous and even though Brendan left over an hour after us, he got down about 45 mins ahead of us as we had to take some breaks so the bus driver could manage. Luckily, we do have excellent leaders and Brendan started pitching out rents for us, which we finished off when we got to site after our EPIC 6.5 hour journey. He also went to the chipper for us, but there was such a queue it was nearly 1 am by the time he got back to us.
On Thursday morning, we packed up out tents and personal gear and brought them to our allocated site, W8 on the Wolf Sub Camp, where our trailer had been deposited the night before by the SI logistics team. There was a lot of waiting around as the Opening Ceremony wasn't until 12:15. However, once the clanger went, we had 8 hours to build our entire site. Our leaders could not help us.We had to do it all by ourselves. We also had to collect food and prepare our lunch and cook a dinner while building the site.
In the middle of all of this Alex deided that it would be a good idea to swat a wasp on his side. The wasp was having none of it and stung him right on his hand. We were off to a great start. He looked a bit like this.
Loads of scouts wanted to trade Neckers with us, but we didn't bring any spares other than the ones for final inspection. We kept our heads down and got our site built as best we could. That night we had some free time and out scouters could visit us, but we could also go and visit other sites to see what they did and how they did it. Some of them were amazing. At Lights Out were were glad to get to bed. It had been a very long and busy day.
On Friday morning after breakfast we headed out for our first day of bases. Today we were onsite. the Theme for the camp was The Day After Tomorrow so the bases had an environmental slant to them. We were being assessed for leadership, communication, teamwork, cooperation, and patrol involvement. We had to do some pioneering and carry patrol members over an obstacle course on an improvised throne. We made Bee Bombs. We had to dispose of nuclear waste. We made protein balls, which were soooooooooo good.
Dinner was Swedish Meatballs and mash. Unfortunately the spuds weren't cooked the best, but we ate them anyway as we were so hungry. In the evening there was a trade fair.We asked other groups and scouts to sign our logbook and we tried play a game with beads and cups. Nobody was very interested in it. Some groups made friendship bracelets.
On Saturday morning, we were up bright an early again to get a bus to Farran Woods for day 2 of the bases. The bus ride was about 20 mins from camp. The bases there involved orienteering with communication bases along the way. We also had a raft building base. We had to build a raft for 4 people and paddle it around a short course. Jack, Molly, Charlie, and Alex were volunteered to be the engine. Alex and Molly got a little damp. It was the best base though and so much fun.
That evening, dinner had to be cooked on the fire. It was camp curry and it was delicious. The campfire was on later in the night. We love a good campfire, but a lot of groups left as soon as they could, which made the atmosphere a bit of a damp squib.
Sunday was all about breaking camp and getting our gear packed up and our site cleared. Final inspection took a long time as there were over 80 patrols to inspect. Once we were done, Brendan and Sean helped us pack up the gear into the trailer. We had to go through it again to make sure it was packed away correctly and no food was left in the boxes that would rot or go moldy. The Sub-camp chief was calling us to assemble, but Brendan and Sean would not let us go until the gear was packed up correctly.
At the closing ceremony, we had to wait a long time for the results to arrive. We entertained ourselves by joining in some competitive chanting between the sub-camps. It got fairly heated at times, but always a lot of fun. Eventually, we had to sit down and wait as there was still no sign of the results.
The top few patrols stayed standing - showing no weakness, but in the end, it was so warm and we were there so long, they all sat down. When the results did arrive, the sub-camps were called out in alphabetical order. Wolf Sub-camp was last so we saw the Balbriggan Boys get Gold Standard, Rush and Lusk both get Silver standard. When site W8 was called, we were awarded Silver Standard as well. We celebrated and jumped for joy. Silver Standard is an amazing achievement for us.
The teams that were awarded Gold were then counted down to announce the winners. There were 26 in total. We were holding our breath for the Balbriggan Boys. They were aiming for top 15. They got it. Then they were inside the top 10. The tension was mounting. They were announced in 6th place and we let out a huge roar of approval. They had done amazingly well. Their best ever result.
The count continued and the Snow Patrol from Drogheda were announced as the winners. There was some booing, which we found very unscoutlike and very upsetting. There was plenty of milling around and back slapping going on form just about everyone. It was a great atmosphere.
It's a long way back to Balbriggan from Curaheen though so we didn't hang about too long. Brendan hitched up the trailer and we jumped on the bus with the rest of the Fingal Contingent. It had been a great success for the county with a 6th place and 3 Silver Awards. We were delighted for Balbriggan, but even more thrilled for ourselves. Some of the team loved it so much, they want to go back again and aim for Gold. It'll be a long hard road, but now that we have had our Phoenix experience, we have a better understanding of what it's all about and what it will take to move up from Silver to Gold.
It is absolutely achievable for us.
We have the skills, we just need to change our attitude.
Thanks to our Scouters, Sean, Fiona, and Brendan for supporting us and believing in us.
Thanks to all the Scouting Ireland logistics team and Scouters and Ventures who marked and ran bases and provided first aid and support when we need it . It was an amazing camp and we are planning on returning next year. Watch this space.