Part 2: Summer 2019 The Dragon Boating Festival of Wellington

Photo courtesy of Valley Dragonboat Club

Circa late November 2018 after the taster session with the VDC

Friends: How did you find the dragon boating?

Me: The paddling technique for the dragon boating was weird (i dare say it’s quite akin to digging) but will most likely join the club – it felt good on the few  occasions I did (ie dug) it right.

Said taster session lasted an hour and the few occasions I was somewhat in sync lasted about three full strokes each but no more, the rest of the time I was having a fencing competition with the paddler in front of me and the one behind. Good thing I was given a wooden paddle; otherwise, I do not think it would have made it through that sesh in one piece.

Circa mid January 2019 – start of the season

Eight weeks, eight sessions, one Fun Day, one Festival Day and that’s the season over. Sure I can handle this. Plus, my position in the boat is right at the very back so no need to worry about exiting on time and going too far back. Those assumptions were clearly very, very flawed but they were nipped in the bud when soon after the first few sessions I was presented with video footage of my paddling, the thought of which still makes me go crimson in the face. But it was so very helpful too! It was shocking to see how wrong I was doing everything and that is everything. Anyhow, Dave, our coach, gave me a lot of feedback and did not seem to be worried that I would eventually get there.

Fun Day

All smiles after a fun day on the water paddling and racing. © Big Mark and Co 2019

It had been six weeks and it was going to be the Fun Day (a mini version of the big festival) at the weekend and though I had come a long way I was still hopelessly out of time far too often. Seriously, why was I taking ages to get it.

Out of the four races we had that day I managed to completely miss out the start of two of them and went out of sync quite severely in two of them. Main reason was that I was not able to stay focused for the entire duration of the race. That is 1 minute and 30 odd seconds. Who would have thought that being present for that short length of time could be so hard. In total, I had one race where I kind of got it almost all right, I think. The Fun Day was fun and my gloomy, catastophizing thoughts of capsizing the boat didn’t materialise so by the end of it I was a little less anxious about the Festival Day, and excitement and anticipation replaced dread.

Extra sessions

The evidence that I did paddle in row two from the front. © Big Mark and Co 2019

After the Fun Day our captain organised some extra sessions with other teams. Exciting! Was until my worst Dragon Boating nightmare ever came true. I was put in row two of the boat (people sitting there are kind of key in setting the pace for the entire boat, plus Dave would never, ever play such a cruel joke on the team). I did mess it up for everyone of course. I was told so and tried so hard to focus that this day while I was paddling the entire world stopped existing. I was so focused on getting it right that I forgot to think about anything else. That was a cool experience.

The Festival

Festival Day arrived finally and so did the rain by the bucketful. But luckily by the morning it turned into a gentle drizzle and stayed like that the entire day. The harbour was pancake flat. I had never seen it so flat before. We had four races the first of which was a warm up and did not count and then the final if we had paddled well enough to qualify for it.

The start of the first race went really, very well and we were paddling furiously towards victory as it were and then came the Sweep’s call ‘All, back paddle.’ But wait! We were not across the finish line yet. At the same time out of the corner of my right eye I could see a boat coming across. What was going on? Turned out we got out of our lane and were the ones going across not the other boat. Thank the gods this didn’t count.

In the next three races we went from strength to strength and improved our time each time. But the pace and effort were so unbelievably fast that my grunting breached all norms of propriety. I’d do anything and everything to avoid getting out of sync. Phew, it was all worth it as we did make it to the final.

It had been a long, physically and mentally demanding day but we all wanted a podium finish badly so we were going to use all that was left in the tanks. We were at the start line with our eyes set on the prize. We went off to a great start and stayed focused and together the entire race and we came across the finish line with nothing left in the tanks but a silver medal in the bags.

Race faces off – big smiles on. Photo courtesy of Rachel Calvert.

1-2-3 HEAT.

Hope I can paddle with you again, ladies!

2 thoughts on “Part 2: Summer 2019 The Dragon Boating Festival of Wellington

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