Gung Haggis dragon boat team does well at Lotus Sports' “Bill Alley Memorial dragon boat regatta”

Gung Haggis dragon boat team does well at Lotus Sports' “Bill Alley Memorial dragon boat regatta”



Gung Haggis team backing out for race #2 at Lotus regatta – photo Sean Kingsley


Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team was a happy team today!
We attended the 10th anniversary of the Lotus Sports Club's “Bill
Alley Memorial dragon boat regatta.”  Monies raised go to the
“Bill Alley Memorial scholarship fund” for the young members of the
Lotus Race.  I have attended these races since 1998 when it was
first known as the “Golden Spike dragon boat regatta” and it was held
at Rocky Point Park in Port Moody.

We
had good races at Barnet Marine Park today.  In races with four boats –
we came second twice, and first once… then in the Rec B final – We
won!!! against a team that had beat us in the first race!!!

The weather was a real mixed bag.  It was overcast and damp. 
Rain sprinkles throughout the day, with gusty winds.  The sun came
out, then it disappeared, then it came out again. 

This race regatta is a lovely friendly event.  I know so many of
the Lotus Club members, that when we were at the start line for a race
– instead of saying “Boat 1 – move up,” they say “Todd's boat – move
up!”  Grace Morisette, one of the event organizers, was my first
dragon boat coach back in 1993.  Jim McArthur came by our tents
asking where his brother McWong was.  Race organizer Jane Yeoh,
scowled at me in a friendly manner, when I called her by the name
“Joyce,” which is actually the name of her older sister.  Nigel
Elphink waved hello, he started paddling with the Gung
Haggis/Celebration team back in 2000.  And of course there is Barb
Alley, who asked me to take a picture of her as she called herself the
“rubber lady,” dressed in neoprene dry suit holding onto two rubber
tires she was carrying down to the dock on the beach.

We also got say hello to our dragon boat friends from the Eh Team, a
senior's team based in Vancouver, Pirates from Chilliwack with whom we
joined for Victoria races last year.  I also chatted with friends
Manfred Preuss from the Fraser Valley Dragon Boat Club who had a brand
new team called The Crusaders, Karmen Alukh captain of the the Sudden
Impact team.  Manfred and Karmen, along with Ian Paul of Pirates,
all helped out Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team in 2005 at the
Alcan Dragon Boat Festival.  I also was happy to see Cheryl of the
Ft. Langley Canoe Club with her team Fort Fusion and many of the
paddlers from the WOW (Women on Water) team also from Ft. Langley.

We had a mixed adult crew featuring a GHFC core with 3 rookies + 7
rookies from the UA Power Dragons + 2 GHFC alumni + 2 friends for a
total of 23 people.  Everybody
contributed admirably to both team performance, and a positive
community team environment. Everybody is stoked, and can't wait to
paddle together again!  We never came last, we never came
3rd.  Combined times were added up for placement in the
finals.  There were women's division, Junior division and senior
division, so we placed 6th seed overall for Mixed teams, and raced in
the B Division. 



Gung Haggis team in the marshalling area at Lotus regatta – photo Sean Kingsley

We were nervously excited.  We had 9 rookies on the boat.  We
knew that the Thunderstrokers from Chilliwack had beat us by 8 seconds
in our first race.  We knew that our second race through the
waves, wind and brief rain had been our slowest race.  And we knew
that we had placed a faster 3rd race time than both the Thunderstrokers
and the Crusaders – a new team from Chilliwack coached and captained by my friend Manfred Preuss.

How to make up 8 seconds?  “Get the paddles deeper,” I told the
team. “Reach out farther, lean outside the boat, fall on your blades,
use your leg drive, keep your heads up with your eyes on the lead
strokes, and your top hands outside the boat.  We switched
steerspersons for our final race.  Rookie Adam took the steering
helm, allowing veteran steers and paddler Dave to apply his many years
of paddling to the task.



Gung Haggis team paddling out to the start line for race #2 at Lotus regatta – photo Sean Kingsley

The airhorn went off.  From the drummer's seat I called “Go! 2! 3!
4! 5! 6!”  Our lead strokes Wendy and Kristine worked together,
gradually increasing the rate with each stroke.  “Up! 2! 3! 4! 5!
6!” and each paddle entered the water together as one.  “Up! 2! 3!
4! 5! 6!” and the boat speed increased with the faster rate. 
“Reach with Po-wer!” and the powerful leg drive kicked in, thrusting
the boat forward with each stroke.

It looked like we grabbed the early lead – but it was really
close.  All three boats were surging ahead together.  I heard
the Thunderstrokers call a power series.  I watched them take 6
strokes, starting to get creep closer to us – then I called “Power
Now!” and our paddlers dug deeper, and our boat moved farther
ahead.   “Heads Up! Top Hands Out! Leg Drive! Kick it!” I
encouraged our paddlers… and the boat surged strongly forward.

Oops… we suddenly realized we seemed off-course, further away from
the two other teams, as our steers person corrected out direction, and
straightened our path to the finish line.  Steering a dragon boat
is challenging work.  Adam only started dragon boat racing in
March.  This was the first time he had ever steered a BuK dragon
boat which is more sensitive to handling, and prone to over
correction.  This was the most powerful team Adam had ever
steered, and sometimes a powerful team can overwhelm an inexperienced
steersperson.  But I had faith in Adam.  He had handled the
UA team during the ADBF sprint regatta, handled avoiding crashes while
steering a Junior team at the same regatta.  And he had been
coming out to Gung Haggis practices and already knew how strong we
could be.

“Keep going,” I yelled to the team “We're doing great, We're on
target… Power Now!” and we surged forward again, with twenty paddles
snapping forward in time.  Adam later admitted that he had
over-corrected – but easily managed to get us back on track.  We
headed toward the finish line vectoring closer with the other two boats
which were battling it out, side by side, neck and neck.  The
Crusaders and the Thunderstrokers – both teams from Chilliwack
developing a strong rivalry.

“Finish! Now!” I called to the team, as this time I called an early
finish, insipiring our paddlers to give everything they had. 
“More!  More! Give us More!”  and they reached farther, and
dug deeper.  I never saw a paddle out of time, as we focussed our
task and crossed the finish line.  “Let it ride,” Dave and I
called at the same time.  Paddlers suddenly relaxed and dropped
their shoulders, leaning forward, their bodies heaving with
breath.  Wendy looked up at me from her lead stroke position and I
held up one finger.

On the way back to the docking area, we chanted “Ice cold beer,” then
we chanted “We want beer.”  Everybody was jubilantly happy. 
After we had put away pfd's and paddles we gathered back at our tent
for a debriefing.

“Six seconds!” shouted Stuart, jumping up and down.  We had won
the race by six seconds.  Graham, our cheerleader for the day,
said we had been in first place all the way, as he watched from the
shore.  We had beaten the 5th and 7th seeded teams to win B Division – and we
posted a faster time than our friends the Pirates – who had earlier
placed 4th overall, and raced in the A division.  

Everybody is happy…   Then… we went to the Mountain
Shadow Inn Pub to celebrate Jim Blatherwick's birthday.  More
happy!

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