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Course Report – The Chimps Tech1 Assessment

Having completed the failures part of the course last November, we elected to do the ascents part of the course at a later date. This became a little more difficult after Kerslake-gate, as we were left in the UK without an instructor qualified to teach Tech1 or above. However, a little organising resulted in Richard Lundgren arranging to come over this May.

As a team, we had devoured and dissected every course report and discussion available on the web, and quizzed countless divers for their tips of wisdom. The advice is pretty simple. Ensure you have your fundies skills absolutely nailed, and that your buoyancy is dialled away to the point where you don’t have to think about it. If you have to focus to hold a stop accurately, you won’t be able to pass, as you’ll never hold the stop when your attention is taken away from it. Stay calm, don’t rush into dealing with problems but constantly prioritise and re-prioritise what is happening. Don’t become task or time focussed, just relax and enjoy the dive.

This gave us a few months to prepare for the assessment, and despite lots of other commitments we tried very hard to get as much training time in as possible. Getting two divers together for regular training sessions can be difficult. Arranging three can be a nightmare. We also contracted the private services of former GUE instructor Andy Kerslake, who had guided us through the first part of the course, and spent a couple of weekends over the last month with us. This can be viewed as "intensive informal instruction" or "a proper beasting from a complete bastard who no is longer restrained by American litigation culture worries", depending on your perspective. Our perspective, at least at first, was usually from the surface, where we were thinking "I don't think we're supposed to be here for a couple of minutes yet guys". However, in the last weekend with Andy, he had laid off the carnage and just built up our confidence. Even if we were not up to scratch from a skills perspective, he wanted us to feel good going into the exam.

Anyway, I wasn't massively confident about the training we had put in, simply because we had not managed to spend a great deal of time as a three in the water with everyone else's commitments. This led us going into the day with a bit of trepidation. We knew we could meet the standard on a good day, and fall below it on a bad day. This is not a good position to go into any GUE course. Another month or two of training and we would have been above the standard on a bad day, which is really where I wanted to be before we were assessed. However, the day had arrived and there was no point complaining at this point.

We had already discussed and agreed the roles prior to the day. We knew these roles would be messed with, but wanted to start off in control of the day. I was to run the dive and manage the time. Howard was to be responsible for putting up the bag. Gareth was to keep an eye on both of to double check what we were doing and jump in to assist with any failures we had. I was quite happy with my role. I was comfortable with running the team through the head to toe check and pre-dive brief, and with calling the time on the ascent. I was also the calmest diver so best placed to take control when necessary. Howard is fast putting up a bag, and by fast I mean about 30 seconds to get it out of his pocket, assemble the spool and SMB and deploy it. It takes Gareth or I about a minute to do the same, so Howard was the obvious choice to bag up. Gareth is the most situationally aware of the three and most likely to spot a developing situation, so our roles suited our individual skill sets and we were playing to our strengths. We knew Richard would mess up this organisation to push us outside our comfort zones but we wanted to start in control.

We met up on the Wednesday evening. We were all driving from different places and had quite long journeys, so were keen not to end up in a pub having a late meal and chat, as we wanted to be well rested the next day. Despite this, we managed to do exactly the opposite and sit up nattering well into the evening. Richard turned out to be an interesting guy, one of those people that just has an incredible amount of experience but doesn’t run it in your face. He also changed some of my preconceptions about GUE, as he possesses an undeniable passion for improving the quality of the service GUE, and ensuring the courses are continually improved, and driven forwards. I had not come across this from GUE before, as I had not met any of the core GUE team, but was pleasantly surprised by this. He also made it very clear that he was there to try to and get us through the course if we were up to the standard, rather than just assessing us, at which point I could see all three of us visibly relax. Guess there’s a reason he’s the training director.

Next morning, and I had been lying awake since 4am, so I got up and went for a run and, if truth be told, fired up the laptop and started writing this report. Following a hearty Welsh breakfast, which is essentially a heart attack on a plate followed up with a nice hot thrombosis in a mug, we drove over the the NDAC, only a couple of miles away. Normally closed on a Thursday, they had agreed to stay open for us to run the course. Which was nice.

Kitting up, I was aware of Richard watching us. We had pre-empted this and kitted up together, checking every item of kit as it was attached to the twinset. We would do a full head to toe in the water, but there’s no point leaping in without something and we wanted to be thorough. The final changes suggested by Andy a couple of weeks previously had been made. I had added a second snoopy loop to my deco bottle to keep the bottom of the hose loop under control. Gareth had enlarged the loop on his spools to make passing the spool through the loops easier. He had also purchased a new spool to replace the one lost in Vobster the previous week. I had picked up a couple of double-enders just in case “captain dropsy” was on form. I got the three of us kitting up right next to each other, and each double checking each other’s kit. We analysed all the gas together, and analysed Richards so we knew what everyone in the water would be breathing. I wanted Richard to see us starting to work as a team before we hit the water. There was no fussing, no faffing, and no last minute changes, exactly the way I wanted it to appear to our eagle-eyed examiner. We moved all the kit down to the water, kitted up, and jumped in.

We had asked Richard for 15 minutes with the team before he joined us. I wanted to get the guys to relax and chill out without feeling like they were being stared at. In order to achieve this I planned to take the team through a head to toe check, and then go off on a gentle bimble, before doing a valve drill and slow ascent with bags. This would leave us back on the surface ready for Richard to tell us what he wanted us to do.

I ran the team through the head to toe. This is a very thorough check of the kit before you descend. We had skimped on this previously, but never do these days, as Andy had visibly demonstrated the possible ramifications of missing something. If, for example, he notices you don’t do a check of the Argon bottle or deco bottle valves during a flow check, then you can rest assured that that particular bottle is going to fail, and you are going to get squeezed to buggery, or spend a lot of time decoing out on backgas. Fail to check the deco bottle clips, and somehow your deco regulator hose will have become looped around the SPG clip, stopping you from deploying the hose without unclipping the SPG. Lessons learned. Fail to clip off the long hose can result in all kinds of clever knots.

The head to toe takes about two minutes and only through bitter experience have we learned not to skimp it. Variations of the theme can be done on a boat before jumping in, with just the essentials done in the water or on a shotline at 6m. Once we had completed the head to toe, I walked the guys through the chill out dive we had planned. I tried to keep myself as calm, slow, and quiet as possible, hoping to remove some of the obvious stress the guys were feeling. I would take role 1, Howard 2, Gareth 3. At the end of the chill out dive, we would do a valve check to limber us up, and each put up a bag to ensure we were not rusty. Finally, we would do a slow ascent, to ensure we were staying at eye level with each other.

This dive did what it was supposed to do, and went without incident. I called it after about 5 minutes, and we went through a round of valve drills, which ironed out some of the rustiness. We then each put up a bag and did a nice slow ascent at 1 metre per minute. We arrived on the surface, with varying degrees of nervousness, but ready for the challenge ahead. We restowed all the bags and hoses, and swam over to where Richard was waiting for us.

Richard waves us over for the pre-dive briefing. We knew we only had the morning to get through and it would hopefully be over, so we swam over to him and listened to what he wanted us to do.

We were essentially to do 2 dives. The first dive would be a summary of the first part of Tech1 in a single dive, in the shallows. This would essentially be back to the underwater carnage of multiple failures, gas sharing, lost masks. Once Richard was happy that we were capable of taking care of ourselves, and more importantly each other, we would then drop over the edge to somewhere around 25 metres, and do a couple of ascents. With everything agreed, I turned back to the team, went through a modified S drill and modified valve drill to ensure all the critical kit was configured correctly, talked the team through the dive, explained who was doing what, and thumbed down. We dropped below the surface as a three.

Gareth, as number one, was to lay line. At approximately 12 metres he made a primary tie off and immediately become entangled in the shotline we had used as a descent reference. So it began. I gave him the hold signal and freed him up. He then made a secondary tie off and we swam along the bottom, with Gareth laying the line, Howard in the middle and myself bringing up the rear. What then followed was a series of fixable right and left post failures, and a primary light
Failure for Howard. Richard was deliberately stirring up the bottom everytime Gareth let go of the reel to deal with something, making it a nightmare to reorganise and start laying more line. Lesson learned there. Eventually, I had a failure on the isolator, which was unfixable. I called the dive, which meant we had to swim back to the primary tie off. I decided to breathe off the primary hose until that would “run out”. A minute or so later, I “ran out of gas”, and immediately turned to Howard. He donated to me, and we then rearranged the team appropriately. We continued to swim out along the line until Howard had a right post failure. This caused an interesting situation as I was breathing off the regulator supplied by that post. However, both Gareth and I saw this coming and he donated to me. Howard then finished shutting down his right post, went to his backup, and we reorganised the team in the light of the new gas share.

At the next tie off a cloud of silt had magically appeared, totally obscuring the line. This required us to swim down on to the lien to follow it by hand. Eventually we reached the primary tie off, having left the line in place rather than waste time recovering it when there was a gas share in operation. At the primary tie off we relocated the shotline, and began our ascent. We switched to our deco gas at three metres, which went without drama. At this point, Richard applauded us and told Gareth and I to head for the surface, whilst Howard and Richard went back down to recover the reel and line. A couple of minutes later we all met up on the surface for the debriefing

Richard explained he was happy with the skills dive, and was happy to proceed onto the ascent drill. He was wanting to see how we could control an ascent, and how we would deal with surprises along the way.

The Tech1 Ascent drill is supposed to see how you cope with things going wrong. Can you keep to time (within a minute or two) and depth (within 50cm of stop depth) despite instructor-induced carnage going on all around you. More importantly, does the team remain calm and in control, and working together to solve the issues that arise. The skills themselves are not hard, but designed to induce stress, and not everyone likes that. Some people, a few who I hold in very high regard, have just sailed through the course with no problems whatsoever, making comments such as “don’t know what all the fuss was about to be honest”. These are strange creatures indeed, and I take my cap off to them. AS Richard Lundgren, Training Director for GUE states, “The core skills are buoyancy and maintaining time and depth. Tech1 is really just me throwing shit at you and seeing how much shit you can take before you lose those core diving skills. Then I know what level you are at”. Great

I ran the team through a pep talk on the surface, calmly walking us through what we were going to do, and who was going to do what. I was going to run the dive and call time. We descended to 24 metres. Richard had picked a spot where the depth was about 27 metres, so we were careful not to stray below the planned depth of 24. At this point, I waited sixty seconds for everyone to get their buoyancy nailed at this depth and settle down, and then I thumbed the dive. As there was no planned stop before the gas switch depth of 21, we immediately clipped off our primary torches and tucked away the hoses. We hit 21 metres after 20 seconds, bang on schedule at the planned rate of 9 metres per minute. I gave Howard and Gareth the OK to switch gas, and when they were done, Howard gave me the OK to switch. We then changed the ascent rate to 3 metres per minute and continued the ascent. The only drama on the way was Richard telling me to tell Howard to bag up on the ascent between stops. I told Howard and Gareth and they immediately, and rightly, questioned my judgement. GUE teaches divers to think about what should be happening. We had not planned to bag up, so why was I calling for one. I had to point at Richard to indicate he was changing the plan. Howard then bagged up on the move between stops and we carried on up through the water column. At 6 metres, we changed our ascent rate to 1 metre per minute and moved up to the surface. We were a bit behind schedule due to the bag issue, but other than that everything went well.

Debrief on the surface and Richard told us that he was happy to progress to the two experience dives the following day, which consisted of two trimix dives to 45 metres, calculating ratio deco at the bottom, managing the ascent and a bag, with a few “low pressure” failures just to raise the pulse a little.. As the weather had turned nasty, we decided to put the cylinders in for the mix fills, and then head back to the pub to do the required admin and get something to eat.

I was already looking forward to the next day’s diving…

Day 2….

Day two was to be the experience dives. This consists of two dives to 40 something metres, with an ascent that takes into account the multiple ascent rates, required deco, a gas switch and a bag. This is Richard putting some polishing on the skills already taught, and seeing if we would kill ourselves on a real dive. Some failures would, naturally, be thrown our way just to keep the stress rate up, as Richard’s argument is he is trying to see if we can dive in the sea, so needs to up the stress levels from a normal quarry dive as we would face more stress in the sea due to slack time demands, low viz and currents etc. whilst you can never replicate this in a quarry, you can certainly add some stress of another form.

We had decided it was not a good plan for me to lead the dive, because it would be a bad idea for the other two to keep relying on me for this, and I needed to learn to see them as equals, building up confidence for them individually, and for the team in me.

Gareth was to lead the first dive. Plan was to go down to an average depth of 42 metres, calculate minimum gas to leave enough for a second dive, and then do the deco, minimum though it would be. Clare Gledhill had joined us for the day to assist Richard, and the five of us went over to the NDAC hoping the weather would be a little better than yesterday. We picked up our mixes from the gas station, analysed all the gas, assembled all the kit, and threw it in the minibus. At the bottom, we put everything together and ran through all the pre-dive checks. The instructors threw in a little extra that they wanted us to do a valve drill whilst holding a stop at 3 metres before we descended. We decided to make use of the environment in the form of a deco trapeze set at approximately three metres. We went through the drills and then descended to 42 metres. I had a failure on the way down where my wing inflator disconnected itself. As we were near our planned rock bottom depth I decided to continue the descent and used the suit to arrest my descent. I then signalled the team, and Gareth came over and sorted it out. After dumping the gas from my suit and compensating with the wing, we them swam off. Because we wanted two sets from the single set of twins, the turn pressure was only 170 bar, so we had about two minutes on the bottom and then signalled the turn. We swam back to the shotline, got into a triangle and thumbed the dive. We ascended at 9 metres per minute to 80% of the ATAs, slowed to 6 metres per minute there and continued up to the gas switch depth at 21 metres. There were no dramas here, although I refused to authorise Gareth’s switch as he had dropped half a metre until he came back up. Leaving the 21 metre stop, Howard bagged up with no real issues, and then we ascended through the intermediate stops to 6 metres, where we supposed to stop for three minutes. At this point, my mask disappeared. I signalled the team and Gareth took my arm. As no-one had told me I couldn’t I got my backup mask out and put it on. Just as I did so, Gareth’s mask disappeared. He did the same as me. We moved up to three metres, at which point Howard’s mask disappeared. As we only had sixty seconds to ride out, Howard decided to not bother with a backup, but just let us control him up to the surface, which we did with no real dramatics. We broke the surface about a minute late, which was ok.

Back on the pontoon and Richard and Clare led us through a debrief. We had not been close enough together throughout the dive. Richard wanted the ascent triangle to be almost touching elbows. The descent was a little scrappy because I let the other two get ahead of me and continued to say I was ok, and they carried on accordingly. I should have signalled them to stop until I was right on top of them and then carried on. Lesson learned. Richard wasn’t happy with Howard’s bag deployment and walked us through some refinements. There was nothing catastrophic about the dive, but he wanted us to work on some key elements for the second dive. Number one was the positioning in the water. He wanted us much closer together throughout the dive. Number two was the communication – signals to be clearer and no action taken until signals are returned. Number three was the teamwork – sharing of the tasks. They also decided that Howard was being left out of things a little, a natural result of Gareth and I training together almost every week for the past few months. It was decided Howard would run the final dive of the day, I would bag up, and Gareth would just enjoy the ride.

This second dive was a different story. We were right next to each other all the way down the shotline. At the bottom of the shot, we did a flow check of the valves to ensure we hadn’t caught the shot line and rolled off a valve, rechecked the gas, worked out how much gas we had available for the bottom portion of the dive, reset the timers, and swam off. Howard led us on a dive of approximately ten minutes, which was a very pleasant bimble around in great viz, with an average depth of 42 metres. We all reached minimum gas within seconds of each other, and immediately got into a triangle and thumbed the dive. This time we were right next to each other, and you know what, it was a lot easier to maintain stops, and deal with things, because you don’t have to look about for people. It does, however, require the odd backwards kick so the months of practising it came in handy for all of us. Up through the deep stops we went with no issues. At the gas switch, everything was a lot smoother and more organised. I then bagged up as planned, and immediately discovered Clare was hiding above me. She nicked the bag and deflated it. Gareth immediately pulled another bag out and sent it up. We carried on up through the intermediate stops to 6 metres. The plan was to do three minutes at 6 and then 1 at 3. At three metres, Richard swam over to our little triangle, made a “T” and then a “1” sign, and then applauded us and shook all our hands. It took a second but we all then realised we had just passed Tech 1.

Out of the water, and Richard gave us a lot of team and individual feedback, and advised us on how to polish the skills. More than anything else he stressed “just go diving and put what you have learned into practice. GUE is pleased to welcome you as Tech1 divers. Now don’t fuck up”.

So that’s that then. 4 days of hell on earth, followed by six months of training and then another two days of assessment.

We are all obviously extremely delighted and relieved. Big thanks have to go to Andy Kerslake, Still, in my mind, simply an awesome diver and instructor. Richard, the GUE training director, phenomenally competent, managed to improve us even in the two days he had us. The two instructors have very different styles best summed up as follows. Richard told Howard “you have a tendency to lose your trim when you are task loaded”. Andy told Howard “if you turn over in the water again I’ll stab you”. The two styles work equally well for them and I’d be absolutely delighted to have the privilege of diving with either of them Both have a gift for imparting knowledge. Both have years of experience which makes for great fun in the evenings listening to them talk of past dives and experiences, and watching videos of exploration dives. Clare – the new instructor on the block, has evolved a style all of her own, and is developing into a great instructor in her own right.

Finally,a thanks to the foxturd boys. It’s been a rollercoaster. I’ve lost count of the number of days we’ve spent training, and evenings spent discussing deco and procedures, and I look forward to many, many great dives with the pair of you.


The smell of freshly turned delrin is more powerfu
3,173 Posts
at last wot no pictures gloc ???

A short fat well off crap cave diver. Likes wrecks
15,343 Posts
Top stuff m8 I am really pleased for you and your team.

Well deserved pass IMHO.


Mark Chase

4,060 Posts
Nice one guys - I'm sure I'm not the only one who never doubted for a second that you boys would get there in the end! Very impressive effort - well done!

7,112 Posts
Ohhhhhhhh Lundgren's video from the wreck of the Steuben - I'm having a J Arthur right now just thinking about it....

*Swenglish on* "It was a very tricky dive" *Swenglish off*

No f*ckin shit - 4/5 stages, nearly 80m, on a breather, Gavin in one hand huge video camera in the other, permanently tangled up in monofilament and netting and just about the most amazing virgin wreck video I've ever seen - he really does turn modesty into an artform

Two really great days - thanks guys :)

aka Chimp 1 or Mavis...
10,108 Posts
at last wot no pictures gloc ???
What, like this one? A little feeding time at the zoo :)

Unfortunately the weather was so cack that we didn't get any surface shots and to be honest, I was a little busy during the dives to take a camera. However, if the south coast is blown out, I am sure we will be down the deep end of NDAC for some photo fun :)

It was fun...promise. However, I can't recommend Andy anymore as someone to provide formal training (ie under an agency) but if you want someone to dive with you and give you hell, he's your man :) He sure knows how to teach by getting you to examine your own failings or weakness and building on them. Richard, as Garf says, has a different way but the result is the same. You have to see what you need to do and then correct it yourself. Self criticism is critical to the way we have worked, and will continue to work, train and dive.

Well done you 2, and thanks for the wishes.

Now we can have some fun.

Irish Cave Diver in the making
3,241 Posts
Well done guys, looks like all the hard work has paid off.
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