By RJ Mitchell
FOR the people of Jersey it was the moment they will never forget and for Island Padel in particular it turned a dream into a nightmare.
Storm Ciarán had hit with a ferocity that left the largest of the Channel Islands, in the words of the song, ‘Rocked Like A Hurricane,’ as winds well in excess of 100mph wreaked havoc and destruction and left their three Padel Tech installed AFP V-Panoramic canopied courts barely recognisable as the state of the art pride of the island’s padel community.
Yet help was soon at hand!
THE RIGHT MAN FOR THE MISSION:
But this salvage and rebuild operation required a unique site manager and Padel Tech had the perfect man to lead our crack team of padel operatives to the site of this unsurpassed padel disaster.
Lee Mackie is a former member of The Corps of Royal Engineers who has served with His Majesty’s forces in Afghanistan with distinction.
‘The Sappers’ as this proud regiment are known are renowned for being: ‘Unique, motivated and intelligent, multi-skilled soldiers who are not only engineers and tradesmen but also combat proven who provide essential support to all areas of defence in peacetime and operations.’
Lee had his mission and we were delighted when he chose to accept it.
SIGHT FOR SORE EYES:
So, in mid-December Lee and his team were dispatched to St Clement as Padel Tech undertook our most challenging job yet but even this seasoned ‘veteran’ was not ready for what met his eyes.
Over to you Lee: “We went out mid-December and I’ve never seen anything like it. It was like the scene off a set from a World War II movie – carnage!” recalled Lee.
He continued: “When we arrived they actually told us that the wind speed had reached 160mph although I’ve heard other figures bandied about.
“I had seen videos and photographs before I went out but I’d never seen anything like that before.”
The three canopied courts, in what is a five court facility with two ‘unroofed,’ were in various states of destruction partially held up by the ‘folded’ canopies propped up on broken legs while various ruined parts were strewn around the ground in a scene almost similar to an aircraft crash.
Yet working alongside Island Padel co-founders Morgan Jubb and Scott Clayton and salvage experts AAL, a plan of action was soon drawn up but it was then that the full extent of the challenge that awaited was revealed.
As Lee explained: “First up we needed to get everything shipped safely and then just got to it. So you have 18 panes of glass per court and we managed to save just 22 panels from the 90 that covered the full five courts.
“We had saved enough glass to rebuild a whole court out of that but then, as you’d expect, after consultation with the insurance company, it was decided that it needed to be a complete and full replacement in the interests of safety.
“Obviously safety must always be paramount as you just can’t take chances in putting something up that may have hidden damage and then it all goes wrong down the line.
“From there we worked in tandem with AAL (local salvage company), and as they took the canopies down and cleared an area that then would make it safe for us to work in that space.”
The rebuild was soon gaining momentum as Lee revealed: “So we have initially replaced three courts and will return to add the final two and construct the canopies, and hopefully in the future all five will be canopied.
“Interestingly enough there were two old courts which didn’t have canopies over them and Storm Ciarán didn’t touch them.
“But going forward, although the wind didn’t affect them, they will be replaced with two new aluminium courts.”
Yet there were numerous hidden dangers waiting to ambush Lee and his team of crack padel troopers, as he shared: “We had to take bits of glass out with the canopies still leaning on the panelling and when that dropped so many bits of glass exploded - it was something we had to be very wary of.
“Padel court glass is tempered and when it goes it really goes and a few of these went and it was quite a sight.
“In terms of the playing surface we have just built the new courts around the old grass which will stay until March when the canopies will be built over the top and we will go back and replace all the carpets and build the last two courts.”
PADEL TECH’S TOUGHEST MISSION YET:
“Certainly I’d say this has been the most challenging job we have had to do at Padel Tech,” admitted Lee.
He continued: “Thankfully that process went smoothly and we completed it earlier this week. So credit goes to our team of David Spence, Andy Park, Carl Smith, Grant Neish, Seb Roach and Tony Mulqueen, the boys have done a great job in a very short space of time.
“They really rose to the challenge in what was a real race against the clock.”
A STRONG RELATIONSHIP WITH ISLAND PADEL:
As Lee explained the excellent relationship we have maintained with Island Padel, since we originally built their courts back in 2022, was essential to a successful operation: “I went out to Jersey, initially with Ryan Green, two years back to build the whole thing, so we have been there since the start and we have a good relationship with Island Padel.
“Morgan Jubb and Scott Clayton were very generous in helping us with our accommodation and food and that is really appreciated when you are so far from home and facing a pretty tough job.”
GOOD LUCK TO ISLAND PADEL:
With three courts reopening this Saturday the future is now once again bright for Island Padel and the 2000 strong Jersey padel community who regularly showed their appreciation for Lee and his team’s work: “We had so many visits from members saying they couldn’t believe how quickly the courts were going back up and I’m delighted for them that they will have their padel back for this weekend.
“To turn things around as quickly as we have, well I don’t know any other companies that could have achieved that.
“So good luck to everyone at Island Padel with their reopening, we really hope it goes well.”
Everyone at Padel Tech would like to wish Island Padel all the very best for their reopening this weekend.