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   Inside Out - South West: Monday February 13, 2006

"Free" holiday controversy

Beach holiday
Beware of "free" holidays - they may be too good to be true

Inside Out's Sam Smith has been investigating a South West holiday firm whose "free" holidays could cost you dear.

Fourcan Travel, based near Ottery St Mary in East Devon, administers holidays which people have "won", usually from scratchcards they are given in the street while on holiday.

But Inside Out discovered a number of unsatisfied clients who were angry at both the charges they eventually were asked to pay and the difficulty of actually taking the holiday.

Too good to be true?

Take the Gates family. A year ago, they won a free holiday on a scratch card they were handed on holiday in Portugal.

To claim their prize they had to get in touch with Fourcan Travel, and they then received a brochure which revealed they had to pay a non-refundable arrangement fee of £32.50 each.

This totalled just over £160 for the five of them.

Fourcan invites clients to nominate three destinations and three dates of travel.

The Gates say Fourcan assured them they could travel in August.

So time was booked off work and suitcases packed.

But with less than 10 days to go, confirmation hadn’t come through.

So they booked their own holiday instead.

Eventually they were offered a holiday by Fourcan - but at a time they couldn't go, and to a place they didn't want to visit.

Not surprisingly, the Gates declined the offer, and forfeited their £160 fee.

Terms and conditions

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has recently investigated two similar Devon companies and ordered them to clean up their acts.

The OFT ruled that their terms and conditions were unfair and that they should not advertise holidays as free if costs were going to be incurred later.

In a statement, Fourcan told Inside Out that their offer clearly contains their terms and conditions, and that their clients are encouraged to read them, and when completing the application they have to sign that they've read and understood them.

When Inside Out visited their offices, they refused to answer further questions.

Commenting on the Gates' experience, Trading Standards warned that if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

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Husky Rally

Huskies
A dog's life - huskies love racing in the annual rally

Inside Out joins Graham Good on Exmoor as he prepares to compete in the annual husky rally in Scotland.

Graham Good was an RAF dog handler for many years, and his pedigree has helped him become the fastest musher in the west.

We join him as he defends his title, competing against 220 other teams at the annual husky rally in Scotland.

For Graham and his partner Sue every weekend is given over to training.

This isn't a hobby for the faint hearted - the stakes are high.

"It's all about connecting with your dogs... I just love huskies."
Graham Good

Graham knows that the competition is going to be intense, "Everyone wants my scalp," he admits.

So he's harnessing cutting edge technology used by the security services, including a helmet camera which will help him choose which dogs will be going to Scotland.

Pulling a quad bike builds muscle and trains the dogs to work as a team.

After the training session Graham is able to review what went right and wrong.

Call of the wild

The call of the wild welcomes mushers from all over the UK to the Cairngorms in Scotland.

Graham will be one of the last teams out - not an easy position - but it will take more than that to knock him off course.

"I don't come here to come second," says Graham in competitive mood.

One of his biggest rivals is John Patchett, one of the Scottish team and Graham's nemesis, but he's feeling confident:

"Well, I beat him last year on the second day so I'm hoping I'll win over all this year."

Graham is competing in the six dog race - it's four and a half miles and the course is run twice over two days. The fastest team wins.

With no snow, sledges are replaced by bikes and it's much harder on the dogs' paws.

Leader of the pack

Graham's top dog, Chalky, leads the team home and although the huskies are literally dog tired, they seem to have run a good race, but Graham's not happy.

The conditions are tough: "That track is wicked," says Graham.

Despite the conditions on the trial, Graham's completed the course in 14 minutes and 23 seconds - and he's in the lead.

Huskies c/o PA/Andrew Milligan
Racing dogs at Aviemore
Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA

But John's snapping at his heels.

It's time for the second and last run, and the pressure is mounting.

Graham makes a last minute substitution - Chalky is replaced and Jak gets pole position.

As the fastest racer from the previous run Graham is due off first.

He makes a flying start - all important if he's to maintain his slim lead over John at the start.

As his team gets underway, there's a disaster - one of Graham's dogs has got his lead caught.

Untying the tangle will cost him vital seconds.

Finishing line

In the meantime John's had a clear run and is in sight of the finish line.

Graham is sure that he's lost. He's right - those 18 seconds have cost Graham victory

John is elated but feels for Graham, "I feel really sorry for him - he's lost through no fault of his own."

Despite the disappointment, Graham and the rest of the team have vowed to be back next year.

But for lead dog Chalky, it's time to take a well earned retirement.

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The Royal Adelaide

Royal Adelaide shipwreck
Rescue attempts - the Royal Adelaide

Inside Out visits Chesil Beach in Dorset to tell the dramatic story of a shipwreck.

Thomas Hardy called the area Dead Man's Bay.

It's a fitting name because there are some 200 wrecks in the bay.

One of them is the Royal Adelaide. Hers is a story of epic proportions - a tale of heroism, fear and wreck fever.

What makes this maritime disaster a bit different is that almost as many local people died on shore as at sea.

And they died because hundreds of them got at the ship's cargo of alcohol as they watched the rescue attempts unfold from what should have been the safety of this beach.

Titanic escape

On the night of November 25, 1872 the Royal Adelaide was in trouble just off the Dorset coast.

The vessel, carrying 67 passengers and crew bound for Australia, was trapped in a storm and heading for disaster on Chesil Beach.

But in the face of certain tragedy an amazing and heroic rescue by Portland locals successfully winched 60 of those on board to safety.

Ultimately just seven drowned, while four drunken revellers also perished on the night.

ROYAL ADELAIDE


* 14 November 1782 - The Royal Adelaide, 1400 tons, carrying 32 crew, 35 emigrant passengers and 3,000 tons of cargo (mainly alcohol) departs London for Australia. The ship leaves nearly 10 days later than scheduled.

* 24 November - the five man crew of the vessel The Jane Catherine are drowned in storms off Chesil Beach.

* 25th November - after increasingly poor conditions, the Adelaide's Captain Hunter decides to seek shelter at Portland Harbour

* By 5pm it becomes evident the ship cannot reach safety and it drifts/rolls broadside towards Chesil Beach.

*Hundreds of locals are alerted to the scene and gather to help/ watch events unfold.

* Blue lights and blazing tar barrels are used to illuminate the night sky.

* Many passengers were ultimately rescued but seven drowned.

* On 26 November there is a third wreck in three days, this time the vessel Cassibelanus - all 14 on board are rescued.

The rescue attempt was dramatic and dangerous.

The first attempt came when the lifesaving crew fired a rocket line across huge waves to vessel.

Some locals also rushed in to the sea to throw lines on board.

But when the rocket fired, no one on board knew how to rig it up properly.

Then the ship's first mate and one other person drowned trying to get a line ashore from the ship.

The next rescue attempt was using the breeches buoy.

Catherine Irons, the passenger stewardess, was the first to try this method but she took hold of the ship's main brace instead of the rope to the apparatus.

The cradle was pulled from beneath her and she fell out.

After this no passenger was keen to use the breeches buoy so the ship's second mate, Woolly, ordered a negro named Samuel Gibbs to use it which he did successfully

Despite this some of the passengers on board were still too scared to use the breeches buoy.

Four women and three men made it successfully, but after failing in his attempt to get the passengers off, the captain led by example, grabbed a child and was winched to safety.

Captain Hunter begged to be allowed to go back to ship but was not allowed.

After this, the rescue moved swiftly and several passengers were brought to safety, many of whom were children.

Final bid for safety

The final two to make their bid for safety were Johann Magdelinsky and Rhoda Bunyan who were cheered as they made their way to shore.

Ship's bell
The Royal Adelaide's bell was later recovered

Tragically they drowned when the rope snapped. Rhoda was just six-years-old.

Her story is particularly poignant because Rhoda's family was emigrating to Australia - and her mother, father and babe in arms got safely ashore.

Rhoda was left alone on the ship and none of the other passengers wanted to take her.

Today Johann Magdelinsky, the hero who tried to save little Rhoda Bunyan, lies in St Georges' churchyard.

The last remaining passenger on the ship was 71-year-old Louise Fowler who refused to use the breeches buoy, despite the other 10 members of her family making it to shore.

She returned to her cabin and went down with the ship.

Tragic aftermath

THE DEAD

Passengers and crew:

* Edward Power, 1st mate.
* Mrs Catherine Irons, stewardess, 33.
* Edward Ruddock, sailor, 30.
* John Edwards, sailor, 30.
* Mrs Louise Fowler, passenger, 71. Buried at Stranger's Cemetery overlooking the site of the wreck.
* Johan Magdelinsky, passenger, 49.
* Rhoda Bunyan, 6.

On shore:

*George Neale, grocer's apprentice, 15.
* Samuel Biles, butcher's labourer, about 40.
* Thomas Strange, carpenter, 45.
* George Gilbert, hat hawker, 45.

All the survivors were nursed by locals, and most were taken to the Victoria Inn (now the Ferry Bridge Inn) to recuperate.

Within an hour of the ship's back being broken, the beach filled with all of the goods on board.

A treasure hunt started as locals tried to pillage goods washed up from the Adelaide.

Locals ran off with alcohol, sewing machines, and even pigs, some risking their own lives to siege cargo floating near the shore.

By the next morning some drunken revellers were near death or had died from intoxication, exposure or hyperthermia, including George Neale, a 15-year-old grocer's apprentice.

Amongst the stories of stupefied pillagers is that of John Stone who was rescued just in time by a friend after lying across the railway line.

Others died of excess alcohol.

Safety lapses

Captain William Hunter was ultimately held responsible for the wreck happening.

He admitted that he did not have all faculties when the crisis happened, he did not know how to use the breeches buoys, and had never been trained in such matters.

At the inquest held a month later his captaincy licence was revoked for 12 months.

The broken remains of the Royal Adelaide still lie close to Chesil Beach.

The shipwreck remains one of the most tragic off the south of England coast.

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