Gung Haggis dragon boat team practice – 2nd last practice before Rio Tinto Alcan Festival

Good practice today!  We focused on race tactics as well as race day procedures.  Some of our paddlers only practice on Sundays or Wednesdays, so we will do the same thing on Wednesday.

After a warm-up, we explained where the team tents will be set up, and where the marshalling area will be.  At last weekend’s regatta, races were 15 minutes apart.  We then went through loading the boat, and how busy it will be on the dock, and leaving the docks to the race staging area on the water.

We did some paddling warm-ups for rotation, hips, reach and rate, then practiced some starts, then paddled to the race staging area in East Bay.  We quickly found the Hydro Dragons coached by Dan Hebert, whom I have known for about 10 years.  Dan called a race start between our two boats.  The start was close – both teams pulling hard with each stroke.  As I drummed for Gung Haggis, I stole glances at the Hydro team, watching the boat beside us.  I called a Power Series, and the team responded, digging deep for 20 strokes.

At the half way mark, the Hydro team pulled forward, and had to move to the left, as there was a boat anchored in the East Bay, in the middle of what will be the race course next weekend.  Our boat took in some water as Dan’s coach boat cast a wake in our path.  Some of our paddlers were distracted by the unexpected surprises of course change and boat wake.  This is a good exercise in dealing with unexpected surprises.  The Hydro Dragons proved to have a strong finish, and crossed the finish line before us.  We congratulated them, then did our own race debrief.

We then headed for the Center Bay of False Creek and did some exercises to help improve our race starts: front half and back half race starts.  This served to show the newer paddlers how well the veteran paddlers perform, and to inspire them.  The back half proved to be powerful, but with some timing issues and room for improvement.  We do believe in our new padders, and want to encourage them – there is great potential here that will be realized not in the next weekend, but later this summer.

We had our paddlers switch sides to work out on both sides of the body.  This is something we regularly do to encourage body symmetry and help develop paddling technique for both sides of the body.  We next worked on power series drills for front, middle and back thirds, while the rest of the team paddled 60% effort.  Next we turned the team over to veteran paddler Keng Graal who is also one of the team’s drummers.  Keng explained how she calls for the team, and what she expects.  She called a short race piece, to allow the paddlers to get used to her voice.

As we approached the startline in the East Bay, beside the island, we gave the paddlers a rest, and practiced some commands for positioning the boat.  We asked the paddlers to back paddle, and left front draw, right side draw – all to get the paddlers used to what may happen on Race Day.

We did one final race piece of 500m, with Keng as drummer.  This was good.  Keng is a demanding drummer that commands attention.  She first came to the team about 7 years ago in 2007.  She had been a drummer for the CC Riders dragon boat team for Columbia College.  We trained her to be a paddler.  The first race she did with us was 1000m.  She survived…  She stayed with the team… and has paddled with us in many races and has really grown into a team leader.  She is small, but really pulls a lot of water for her size.

We look forward to a great weekend for June 16/17.  We have great leaders on this team with Keng, Steven and Debbie as assistant coaches, Deb as steersperson, Karl and Gio as lead strokes, Xavier as “master of the kilt!”

Everybody on this team brings something.  It might be strength, experience, or a great sense of humour.  We encourage and acknowledge every person’s personality, and especially the cultural diversity that each paddler brings.  We have fun and we both encourage and tease each other, as well as respect each other, and what each person brings to the team.  This is good team building.  This is a good team.  I am having fun, and especially getting to know our new paddlers.


We only had 16 paddlers out on the water this Sunday – but we had fun…. and that is what is important.

Paddlers out on Sunday were:

Karl & Gio

Keng & Amelia

Caroline & Xavier

Steven & Walter

Florian & Gerard

Pedro & Todd

Justin & John

Pierce & Sabina

+ Deb Martin as steersperson.

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