The Lotus dragon boat Regatta, held at Barnet Marine Park in Burnaby BC, gave people plenty of reasons to smile on Saturday, May 15, despite the tragic car accident death of long time Lotus club Member Bill Allie, earlier in the week.
Bill was a member of the club from the beginning back in 1986, and according to Lotus Club member Jim McArthur, Bill was always working behind the scenes to make things work. Following the eye-dotting ceremony to awaken the dragons, a moment of silence was held for Bill.
The Lotus Regatta is a very friendly race. It is designed for people to have fun and is very paddler and people friendly. At the registration tent are bananas and orange slices set up for passers by, along with an 8liter container of Gatorade. All the organizers are smiling and saying hello to everybody.
Race Director John Park doesn't blast out his messages over a bull horn or speaker system – instead he personally goes and talks to each and every team. There is a table set up with lots of door and raffle prizes, to ensure that lots of paddlers walk away with prizes. There are no medals at this race – but instead there are glass trophies for Women's, Senior's and Open Division winners.
18 teams attended the Lotus Regatta. I paddled with Spirit of Vancouver, organized and managed by Richard Mah. It had been about 5 years since I raced with Richard on a Spirit team in San Francisco in 1999. Still on the team was Richard's girlfriend Karen, now his wife as of last year. Also on the team is Ken Fung, who joined up in 2002. I was one of Ken's first coaches when I coached/drummed for Nokia Dragons in 2000 at the Alcan Dragon Boat Festival.
Spirit of Vancouver is a very friendly team, and was very welcoming to myself and other paddlers including Jane Leung who paddled with Gung Haggis last year, and has started her own team for 2004 – Ready JET Go! for Japanese English Training alumni – all people who have taught English in Japan – which is where Jane first learned to paddle dragon boats until returning to Vancouver last year.
Our first race was delayed due to the slow beginning of the regatta due to an equipment malfunction. One of the boats took a longer time to get unloaded from the trailer and get into the water. No worry – this allowed more time for paddlers to show up for their teams (no doubt newcomers were getting lost or slept in). Teams were also able to borrow paddlers from other teams. This is a tradition at Lotus races – I have never ever seen a team confronted for “stacking” their team so they could win. It is all for fun, and paddlers are happy to race for each other and get to know other teams.
For our first two races, we borrowed paddlers from Lotus Jr and Women On Water (WOW), plus a guy from Dogwood Nothin'. Then I got asked to paddle with the Lotus Jr team. This was a great honour because their coach Grace Morrisette was my first coach back in 1993, when I first joined the Headliner's team and we won 1st place for the first ever Novice Division cup at the Alcan Dragon boat festival. Grace has always been a role model for me, and it has been great getting to know the many Jr paddlers she has coached as organizer of the Lotus Jr program. It was also great to paddle with Elton and Laurin, whom I met when I set up NCCP courses for dragon boaters 3 years ago.
Okay… so Spirit won its first race by a good distance as we paddled in a seeding race, we blew the second race by getting too wound up and paddling too fast. The third race we came 2nd or 3rd in a close pack. And in our 4th race – the Open Mixed Finals – we held our own, then slowly lost ground to finish 4th. We all felt like we had put in our best efforts and had corrected the mistakes in our second race – There was nothing else we could have done. M-Power won the Open Mixed, Grandragons came 2nd and Nothin' Dragons came 3rd. Abreast in Barnet came 1st in the Women's division and M-Power also won Top overall.
I can't believe I paddled in 5 races. 3 on my right side and 2 on my left side. This is a very good case for training paddlers to paddle on both sides. I don't think my body would have held out if I did all the races on one side. Basically I just relied on technique, as I have hardly been paddling because I spend almost all of my boat time on coaching.
When the awards were handed out Race Director John Park announced that Lotus would be renaming the race the Bill Allie race. Everybody clapped appreciatively. The raffle draw raised almost $500 that would be given to the Allie family. It featured a pass for two to go see the Terracotta Warriors show in Vancouver.
The final prize was a draw amongst all the teams participating to win a free registration to enter the Vancouver Taiwanese Dragon Boat Race on Sep 4/5. They crowd clapped when I announced it is worth $600 to $700 and each team member also recieves 20 tickets for the Taiwanese Cultural Festival to bring family and friends or to sell to them. Eric Hamber Jr's won the regisration and was very excited. Afterwards fellow DBA vice president Bob Brinson and I explained to the Eric Hamber team how the race worked and I taught a few paddlers how to climb on to the dragon head to become a flag puller.
Lotus will reciprocate this gesture and offer a free 2005 Lotus Regatta registration as one of the prizes at the Sep 4/5 Vancouver Taiwanese Dragon Boat Race. It is part of my efforts for smaller festivals to help support and promote each other.
I am pleased that the boat registration and the Terracotta Warriors prizes went over so well. It is part of my personal effort to help support the Lotus Sports Club, and to help them through a very tough race.