Victoria Dragon Boat Festival 2007

Team Loco Motion won silver medals in the Pearl event in the 2007 Victoria Dragon Boat Festival.  Our coaches and the experienced paddlers had tried to explain how this would work, but it wasn’t real until I experienced a big festival. Now I understand why people stay with this sport. I saw our team work hard, compete with enthusiasm, overcome adversity, lift its spirits, support our friends and mentors in the Club, and applaud our competitors.

Loco Motion had some extroverts and natural clowns, who took the Loco
name as a mission statement to have fun and create some entertainment. 
We had funny hats, songs, pranks. 

This was tougher than the races last week. These
races were in the harbour. The water is different – the tides have more
influence. The races are held up for the Coho,
the other ferries, whale-watching and sightseeing boats, and yachts. It
is a big festival with 90 teams, which mean 18 races of 5 boats to run
the heats. With the traffic delays, it takes about 4 to 5 hours to get through a full set of 18 races. Most of the teams have been practicing and racing for a few years, and there a couple of dozen teams with
serious competitive goals.

Loco Motion found wonderful support within VCKC. The Club found volunteer coaches and helped us find some experienced dragon and outrigger paddlers to build our team, including Harold, who steered, Muriel, Chark, Jane and Fiona. Our coaches Stephen and Judi paddle with the Vasuki Dragons. The Dragons throw money into a pot to shop for buns, bagels, veggies, fruit and snacks, so that the whole team is properly fed, at a ridiculously low cost, through the festival. They brought us in on these arrangements and took us under their wing.

Each team runs in two heats on Saturday. The heats are seeded, with
the strong teams in lane 3 where they can pull away and run their own
races. Points are awarded for place, rather than time. The results of
the first two heats sort the teams into 9 groups of 10. There are
semifinal races in each group to sort the teams into a final and a
consolation final. The semi-finals and finals are close, competitive
races. Each team faces a manageable challenge. The format lets the
competitive racers and the recreational teams find their level. The race format provides competition balanced with empathy and respect for other teams, and sportsmanship.

Saturday was cloudy, with sunny breaks. Sunday morning started
overcast, and turned to light rain and showers, and then it became
sunny for the afternoon. There was small ebb tide in the morning on
Saturday, small floods for the other races. The flood tends to curl
from right to left across the race course. As novices, we we seeded in lane 5 along the James Bay shore in the Saturday heats, which was a disadvantage. We finished fifth the first race. We didn’t do badly, but in the excitement of the first race, there were cumulative small mistakes. We did better in the second race, pulling out a third place finish, which got us enough points to get into the Pearl event, the best 10 of the bottom 30 teams. By good fortune, one of my friends from work made a video of the start of the first heat and some digital stills of the start of the second heat.

On Sunday morning, Harold said he didn’t want to steer. The festival boats are rigged with the steering oar loose in the bracket, and Harold likes to tie it in. At 79, he getting a little stiff and didn’t think he was going to keep his balance. Since I had steered in about 10 practices, I became the alternate. We were happy with our silver medal, especially since our times in the Pearl semifinal and final were competitive with times in the Bronze events above us.

The Vasuki Dragons made it to the Bronze event, but were placed in lane 5 in the semi-final. They battled out of lane 5 into a second place, which put them in the medal fina, where they won the silver medals. VKKC had a good festival.  The Amazing Greys were in the Pearl event with us.  Gung Ho, Komodo Dragons and Ageless Warriors were in the Silver event, with Ageless taking the silver medals.  St’Keya earned the silver medals in the Jade event.

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