Racing for the National competition began early Friday morning with the Premier, Senior C, Senior B, University and Junior classes 200 metre heats and finals before the BCS division. We had lots of great racing to watch to get us pumped for our first 200 meter race. It was a beautiful sunny day and we could stand along the shore line for a perfect view of each race. That would change...the forecast did not look good for the remainder of the weekend.
Finally we heard the first marshaling call for race # 41. We were warmed up and ready for action! Coach Cheryl made sure we knew the race plan and gave us the roster. We made our way to the marshaling area and checked in with the Dragon Boat Canada official, which we are required to do before each and every race at National competition.
There is a buzz of excitement as we wait in the marshaling lane. Our competitors all line up beside us. Of course the BCS teams are all friendly, and pleasant greetings are heard throughout the area as old friends take a moment to catch up and new friendships are born. No nasty rivalries here, just honest sportsmanship and the thrill of competition. That is not to say that we are not competitive, of course we are, we are fiercely competitive but that doesn't mean we can't all be friends!
Soon the BCS teams are loaded in boats and we all head out to the start line, pleasantries are put aside for now, it's race time!
The boats are lined up with the dragon noses in the "boot". The starter says "all boats ready" followed by the "READY READY" call from Laura, our drummer and Shirley, our stern. The starter calls for our "ATTENTION PLEASE" and no paddle movement is allowed until the horn blows, the boot falls and we take that first hard stroke, then another and another to get the boat up and moving...we change gears on the "ups" and soon we are pulling out in front of the competition! Each stroke planted and ripped to the hip.
Midway down the race course we were in the lead...but somehow we found ourselves pulling in to the next lane! Shirley straightened us out and we crossed the finish line first!
Due to the fact that we crossed in to lane 3 from our lane 4 we incurred a 2 second penalty meaning that even though we crossed the finish line first, Toronto's Dragons Abreast won the heat because they were less than 2 seconds behind us.
Sometimes these things happen and we just have to deal with it and move on. We would have a chance for redemption in the next race, our 200 meter final.
Back at our tent we debriefed with Coach Cheryl. She tells us "sometime sh!t happens and it doesn't matter who or what caused it, we are all in this together. What matters is how we react to it. It's over and done, we look ahead to the next race.". That is just what we did. With just enough time for a snack and a rest before we were called to marshaling for race #50.
This time in marshaling everyone was focused, visualizing the race, our race plan and long hard powerful synchronized strokes.
Once again we are lined up at the start line, our mission given to us by Coach Sarah the previous night "make sure, whatever seat you are in that you are ahead of the same seat in the boats beside you.".
The wind had picked up and getting the boat in to the starting boot was a little more difficult this time but Shirley is a pro, she got us in place and we were "set" and ready.
"All boats ready"
"ATTENTION" - GO! The starting horn blasts and we are off! This start even better than the last. Less than a minute later we cross the finish line, no lane crossing this time, the win is ours!
Quick pats on the backs of teammates and a congratulatory calls from drummer and stern before we are "paddles up" and heading back to the dock.
On the way back we hear the announcer introducing us to the crowd and the cheers and whistles we heard were from our fans!! Not only our friends and families who have come to watch but also our dragon boat families in the Pendragons and the Canadian Senior Dragon Boat Club (CSDC) Alliance. Our network of support runs deep and wide!
Again we debrief with Coach Cheryl, we did what we needed to do to get the win and she is happy with our performance.
We were done for the day so we packed up and headed back to the Niagara College residence to get cleaned up before heading to Vineland for our team dinner.
The next day was Saturday and Rowbust was not scheduled to race. Some of our members, however, were racing in the gender crews with the CSDC Alliance teams. The weather had turned and the rain came down in buckets. Tarps were thrown over tents to ensure a dry space for the paddlers between races. As you can see in the photos below it was cramped quarters. Even through the downpour you can see the smiles. We came to race, the weather is no matter we can't overcome. There is nothing we can do about it so we just deal with it. Since there is no thunder or lightning the racing continues!
Sunday's weather was a little bit better, it was still raining but it scaled back to cups instead of buckets. At times the rain was a light sprinkle and we could once again watch the races from the shoreline. Other times it was a little too much to risk getting yet another set of dry clothes soaked. There would be piles of laundry to do after this weekend!
Everyone's minds were on Laura Sunday morning, and wondering if she would be able to sit on the drum after a slip and fall in her room the night before lead to a trip to the emergency room to close up the gash in her knee. (don't worry, there won't be any pictures posted of it...). But Laura is a trooper and she was bandaged up and ready to go! Like all of us, once she has her mind set there is no stopping her!
Sunday was a heavy racing day. 500 meter races followed by our favourite, the 2km! Once again some of our paddlers were doing double duty, paddling with Rowbust as well as the alliance teams.
According to the race schedule our 500m heat was race #106 and our final was race #117, with the 2km at race #126. It doesn't seems like much time in between, and for some it wasn't, but there are breaks between sections so just enough down time to refuel and hydrate before the next race.
Our 500's went off without a hitch, everyone pulling their weight, emptying the tank and leaving everything they had out on the water. We were victorious in both the heat and the final with only the 2km left to battle it out with competition.
There were 13 boats in each 2km race. The teams are lined up based on their 500 meter times, slowest to fastest per division, with a staggered start of 10 seconds between each boat. We were 13th in our race which meant we had some chasing to do...perfect! That is why the 2km is our favourite!
In previous years the 2km was done at 500 meter stretches and three turns. This year the course was changed to 300 meter stretches and five turns with 40 meter ends making it a shorter but wider course. This new format makes for more excitement in the turns as boats jockey for positioning at each turn. Coming in to a turn, if a trailing boats head is level with or ahead of the boat in fronts tail than the trailing boat has the right of way in the turn and can easily slip by the other boat to take the lead.
Our race started, boat after boat taking off 10 seconds apart. We waited for our time and soon we were called up to the start line and taking the first five strong hard strokes to get us up and moving in to the next five and the next five and one more five before powering in to our race pace where we're started to make gains on the crews ahead of us. By the second turn we were overtaking Toronto's Dragons Abreast and soon there was open water between us as we surged ahead. Two more times around the course and we had clinched it! National Champions once again!
Back on land we celebrated with our fans, thanking our competition for great racing and high fives all around! Coach Cheryl once again happy with our performance. No debrief this time, that would have to wait as Coach Cheryl was off to drum the 2km for the Pendragons. We watched and cheered for them as they raced and overtook two boats in their first ever National competition!
Next was the medal presentations. It was still raining and the presentations seemed to be taking longer than usual. We heard the announcement for the presentation of the BCS awards and our excitement kicked up again. But, there had been an error in the results and before the winners could be announced the officials needed to investigate. Somehow, the results showed Toronto winning gold, not Rowbust. So we waited and watched every other division accept their awards. Ours was the last division to be presented and we made our way to the podium to accept our GOLD medals! All our hard work had once again come to fruition and despite the wet weather we stood proudly in the rain for our moment in the "sun"!
Congratulations team....WE DID IT!!!