Dragon Boats 2007

Dragon Boat Racing – PTI Style!

By Sgt Gareth ‘Taff’ Davies

Dragon Boats 2007 The annual Dragon Boat races at Himley Park, Wolverhampton are organized by the Rotary Club of Wolverhampton and they aim (as they say) to put the ‘fun’ back into ‘fundraising’. However, DCAE Cosford had a reputation to uphold, having won the competition on three previous occasions, so the pressure was on from the start for the team of 16 PEd staff, one Technician and the Station Commander (team coach!).

On arrival the pre-race nutrition was quickly catered for in the form of the Home for Sport BBQ, while we took advantage of the fine weather and we waited for our first heat. The coach (Stn Cdr) took the opportunity to share his previous experience of the event by showing us some tactics that had proved useful in the past. (Ed – I am assured that these were all ‘above board’ and in the spirit of competition!)

Heat 1:

Dragon Boats 2007 The first 16 rowers and the drummer (with the vital job of keeping us all paddling in time together) made their way to the start after collecting paddles and life jackets. We positioned everyone in the boat 2 abreast with the heavier team members in the middle to balance the boat and practised a few racing starts and techniques on the paddle out to the start; now we were ready for the starter’s instructions. Exploding out of lane one and leaving the other 2 teams well behind right from the start, the Cosford boat powered through to the finish in just over 1min 14sec – a great start, and the fastest time of the first heats.

Heat 2:

After a short break, some refreshments and a few tactical alterations, we were ready for the second heat. Drawn in lane 3 this time, we were once again very strong at the start but were pushed all the way through the mid section of the race and lost some of our ground through poor technique. A sprint finish was called upon to secure the win but it cost us dear in energy reserves. A stern talking to and some changes to the boat layout saw us all very focused for the last heat of the day which was up against some of our strongest rivals…

Heat 3:

Dragon Boat 2007 This was to be the toughest heat so far, with us pitched against the Air Training Corp (ATC) Cadets and ‘The Hairdressers’. We had our suspicions about some of the overage-looking cadets sporting beards and ‘builder’ type qualities! As for the hairdresser team, I doubted whether any of the ‘meatheads’ on show had a tangible qualification from Vidal Sassoon between them, but I have been reliably informed that they were at least prison barbers! In the middle lane for the final heat, we could easily see the other teams. All the teams made a fast start but we seemed to have a slight edge. The ATC and hairdressers were determined to make up some ground on us and dug in deep to pull level with less than a third of the race to go. It was now a battle of endurance. We had to wait for the announcement that only 0.3 seconds separated the three teams but it was in our favour and we once again picked up the fastest time of the day.

All of the times were now in and we had to wait for the organizers to announce the 4 fastest crews to compete in the final, having been whittled down from the starting 12. Again we made some final adjustments while watching a well-fought minor final. This really got the crowd going as a technical fault forced a re-run that was equally as gripping as the first.

Major Final:

Dragon Boats 2007 Now it was our turn in the major final against our old adversaries from heat 3 in lanes 2 and 3, a pub team in lane 4 and us in our preferred lane 1 (inside lane). The start was frantic, arms and water spray everywhere with an enthusiastic crowd all along the banks shouting encouragement. The Cosford boat got off to a great start with all of the team working well in a fast rhythm right to the end for a very convincing win. However, our jubilation was short lived as a technicality forced all 4 teams back to the start for a re-run! Tired arms needed to be encouraged to go again but we were all ready for the challenge. Again a blur of arms and water signified the start but it was a lot closer this time. Grit and determination was the order of the day as each team member dug deep into their reserves; it began to pay dividends as we slowly began to pull away. We hung on to the finish, narrowly winning in a time of 1min 20sec; delighted and very tired we were welcomed back to the bank to the sound of ‘we are the champions’.

The presentation was a humbling experience as we began to understand the commitment and significant contributions that the Rotary Club make to charitable projects within their communities. We were presented with a trophy for the overall winners and fastest time of the day, and each member received a medal for their efforts.

Feeling very pleased with ourselves we packed away and went back to Cosford having had a very tiring and enjoyable day. As a team we had also raised over £1000 for charity that we divided equally between the Rotary Club and SPARKS (Sport Aiding Medical Research for Kids).

Many thanks to Cpl Dave Lemon for putting the team together, and all of the team members for their efforts on the day and fundraising for two very worthy causes.

Sgt Gareth ‘Taff’ Davies

Team Members:

Gp Capt Fletcher, Flt Lt Mitchell, Sgt’s Davies and Batson, Cpl’s Boal, Brabbs, Fuller, Irvin, Lemon, Lyons, Purssey, Risker, Savage, Silva (Lady), Silva (token ‘Teckie’!), Waddington, Wright and AC Morgan.

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