IBCPC Dragon boat festival, Florence, Italy

Walking around the 125 tents at this event, you realise that 99 percent of all the ladies here have all had breast cancer. It is Amazing! There are about 3500 paddlers, 125 teams with 30 teams from Australia and 33 from US. It is phenomenal.  This is the largest all women event in the world.  The camaraderie here is so natural. 

Everywhere you go in this town, there are groups of pink clad tourists. The Americans and the Aussies are loud, the south Americans  are looking for a party and a beat to move to, the Poms are quietly queuing for cups of tea, and the kiwis are, well, a bit of all of them but less so.

We are all talking together and trading pins or whatever we have. Everyone wants the NZ pin as it is quite rare. It is a great way of meeting different people. So many people have expressed an interest in wanting this event to be in NZ next time, and would love to come to us.

Our team, the 'Vienna Pink Dragons International' has Austrian, Aussie, Belgian, Kiwi, English, French, Canadian, South African, Polish and German members. Everyone is lovely and we have been made very welcome. 

Most are ok with English, but if there are instructions,  that has to be translated. Day to day conversations - we are all on the same wavelength. Especially when we come off the water, high fives are pretty international. 

The opening ceremony started with a parade through the streets of Florence and over the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge - the oldest in Florence.  It has gold shops either side, but used to be butcher's shops, who got rid of their waste at the end of the day by swilling it directly into the river below. Yuck! We were able to have a special paddle under this bridge, with an Argentinean team and Colleen from Boobops on the sweep oar. Luckily no butchers swill just tourists claping and cheering us.

We had two races each day and won all four with an easy ( mostly) margin. Quite surprised as some of our paddlers had not been in a race before, and the 500m is not a usual distance, as 200m  is the norm. Some of the other teams look so uncoordinated, with paddlers pulling out, or so badly out of time. I remind myself, as we all do, that it is participatory. 

On the the second day the last race was a memorial for Sandy Smith, whose family attend each event, with the flower ceremony at the end. There was only space for one representitive from each team, so our organiser Svenja was nominated. 

We had the privilege of getting a photo with Dr Don McKenzie. This great man started the whole Breast Cancer Survivors Dragon boat team - 22 years ago. He realised that it was beneficial to BC survivors and says " It improves the quality of life and has measurable benefits in physical and mental health". Yeah, what he said...

It is a great honour to meet and get a photo with him.

It is very well organised even with busses to transport us to the event and away at the end of the day. 

Us kiwis have had some knock backs with a few illnesses that we brought with us or picked up along the way. We are all pushing ourselves to the limit with cramming in as much as we can every day. But when it comes to the crunch, everyone is in the boat giving 100%.

The pace of paddling is very slow, but so strong.  It felt very odd when we started, but it worked! Our times were 2m 39 to 2.36 - getting faster for the last race. Not too bad for a composite team with 3 newbies. The fastest times were 2.20 with Can Survive on 2.21.

The sweep is not used to having a full boat and is used to being in salt water, but managed very well. 

At the end of the weekend we had made so many new friends, and have invitations to go to many countries to paddle. 

We came away knowing that we were part of this great participatory event, but so excited that we finished up as ranking 37 out of 125 teams. That's what we came to do... Done!

Ciao for now 

Mac and the Pink Ferns

Azba, Catherine, Ceedub, Di, Donna, Mac, Robynne, Susan

Learn more about the event! - http://www.florencebcs2018.org/

Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta

Auckland turned on good weather for the Anniversary Day Regatta and the Viaduct is a magnet for people to watch the events happening here and on the harbour. The early crew had secured a great spot for our base for the day, with much needed shade. 

Our first race wasn’t great but the following two with a better pace saw us get together as a team. It was good to have John Papalli from Greyman’s Gym who has been giving us additional support in our fitness and getting more power in our stroke observing from the side. 

I was a spectator for the Woman’s final which turned out to be a nail biter. Busting with Life got a good start and had the lead in the initial part of the race. However towards the end of the race saw youth overtake us with only 17/100 of a second between first and third. We were third in this final. 

Our take home from the day is to be responsible for our own fitness as we head to Regionals and Nationals. 

- Jeanette

Beach Fun Day Regatta - some thoughts!

Saturday was sunny and breezy for the 1.00pm start of the Milford beach fun regatta.

Short notice change of venue – large swells at Milford Beach too much risk of capsizing boats. Jude did a good job of alerting the team to the change and so off to the training ground at Westhaven Marina.

As the newbie in the team a little nervous at the thought of swells on the water and what the fun races would entail. The blue gazebo was spotted in prime position at the end of the pier. Balloons and festive cheer adorned the tent as we waited for the event to kick off.

Leslie worked hard on the team seating and then put herself in the team (a paddler short) with the awesome Evan as sweeper for the day. The wait for the first race was a little nerve wracking but then we were off, not the best of starts in the swell but could only improve from here!!

A debrief from Leslie and plan of attack then off for race two without too much waiting between. Second race much better and concentrated hard on timing and power.

The beach races team, ready to rock

Still one heat to go and then a final - not sure what the fun race was to be but needed to focus my energy to complete the set of four.  Third race feeling much more in the zone and great encouragement from all the team and the awesome Evan. Could really feel the team working together.

Lining up for the final race and what an effort, - first place wow! A great feeling to end the fun regatta and a well deserved celebration.

It was great to see and meet team family members and I was very humbled by Johnny and his generous gift of Bridgette’s paddle and other dragon boat items to the team.

First regatta completed and it really is great to be a part of this amazing team of women. Looking forward to the rest of the season.  

- Lorraine

Hamilton Regatta super 14's

Meet out super 14!

Azba, Ceedub, Debs, Di, Donna, Jeanette, Jude, Leslie, Libby, Linda, Marion, Robynne, Susan, Vicki

We had an early start - 5 am pickup in Henderson, (which (never ever) makes me question my commitment to the team) We made it to the bombays to pick up Donna and have a quick breakfast. The day was looking better after this for most of us, as we made our way to Hamilton.

I would not paddling today as I had among other things a sprained knee ligament so I was on photo duties.

For our newest team member,  Libby, it would be her first regatta and she had brought her husband and young family with her.

We were in the second race so there was not much time for relaxing.  There was a circle formed and the exercising began, along with many hilarious photos. A selection of the most embarrassing, will be released soon, unless payment is made to my offshore bank account....

The first race as always was a bit of a dress rehearsal but by the second race the girls were pumping along.

The conditions were mostly good maybe a little overcast to begin with but the sun came out in the afternoon and we were soon reaching for our hats

The wind came up a little too, and because the lanes closest to the bank were the shallowest, made it hard work paddling, apparently. There were three races and a semi final, followed by the BC final incorporating the flower ceremony which was as always very emotional.

Our hosts, The Waikato treasure chests, very kindly handed out goodie bags to all the BC teams. Thanks ladies, all that chocolate kept me going while I was looking after the towels back at the tent.

We packed up (in the dry for once!) and left around 3 o’clock and headed for home, stopping briefly to purchase lotto tickets - which at the time could have netted 38 million dollars. We made a pact, that if any of us won the 38 million, we would shout the whole team to go to Florence next year!

Next week maybe.....


The return to Tauranga...

BWL returned to Tauranga and participated in the TGA 10 Up Regatta Saturday 28 October at Lake Tauriko.  The team travelled down Friday night and awoke Saturday morning to an extremely wet day. 

Oh well, it’s a water sport so let just get on with it was the cry.  Luckily on arrival at the lake the rain had stopped and the base was duly established in the dry.   So in between the rain we raced in the heats and although no times were recorded the team did well as well as working on perfecting the new start plan.

The BC final was again hard fought and resulted in a third place but it was extremely close.  The flower ceremony was a moving tribute to our dear Bridget as we all remembered her and how we are all missing her.

Prize giving was held at the lake and in an effort to stay dry we marched the tent across the grass to be at the front row and luckily again the rain stopped as we packed down. 

We returned to the motel for a well-deserved shower/bath, changed into dry clothes and enjoyed an evening of socialising with drinks & nibbles at the motels and then hit Cobb & Co for a team dinner.  Sunday morning dawned wet again and we all headed back to Auckland as it was too wet to do anything else.

Although the weather was a dampener, it was great to be back in Tauranga and to enjoy a weekend together.

- Judy 

Tutukaka Coast Winter Festival Dragon Boat Regatta, Saturday 19 August 2017

Linda Ashton, always entertaining, reports from the fun event that was the Tutakaka Coast Winter Festival Dragon Boat Regatta...

Plan, to meet @ Toots 10am Saturday 19th August.The team woke early from their warm comfy beds in Auckland, to head for Tutukaka, some of us earlier than others, and some the day before. As we travelled along in our cars carpooling too, we rendezvoused at various spots to engage in a coffee or 2 and a chit chat. A few spots of H20 along the way, nothing to be at all worried about, surely this will stay in the City of Sails!!!!

Arrived at set up (thank you Vicki and Debs), our place of comfort and shelter for the day………watch this space. The boats were carefully unloaded from storage and we spotted the BIG pink one, colour a bit faded but she’s a beauty, BUSTING WITH LIFE down the side of her. Aww, such a sight from weeping eyes. The old girl was just calling us back in………….(the boat that is, not the caller!).

1st race - we’re up. Keen as. Four teams. Paddled to the starting line…..we’re off! (these boats are pretty old & rather high from the edge to the water line and so our poor little arms had to stretch that little bit more to reach the chilled waters of Tutukaka). As the boat launched into shore, the caller had to run & collect the number board for placing. We came fourth, but hey, this was just a warm up for us.

2nd race - we paddled out to the start line and OMG the heavens just opened up. We all tried to shelter from the pouring rain. Caps became the new look “rappers” and poor Maz (Marion), she’s doing the frozen snow cone dance, shivering and shaking. Evan our sweep, god bless him, he was head to toe with wet weather gear. No it’s all good here Evan, you stay dry, we’re ok. While waiting for the other teams to rock on up we broke out in song with still the rain pouring down on us.

….if you're happy and you know it, clap your hands…
….if you're happy and you know it, clap your hands….

Thanks Robin, it warmed our spirits and hearts. Gun goes….

We powered through the rain, the storm, the thunder. It was a dark sky and the sound of the raging seas was lapping at our boat. Fish were jumping out from left  then right and centre!! The boat hit the shelly shores with force and the caller jumped “ship” and ran to the board, plucked it from the depths of the sand and held it high. YESSSSSS 2nd (a little over exaggerated, but it sounded fierce aye!)

It rained and rained and rained. We huddled toward the centre of our shelter to stay warm, wrapped in towels and anything dry and cosy. Maz …well she still looked like a frozen snow cone so much so she could have been used as an icepack had there been a call for one, bless her. Racing was called to a halt due to the weather conditions. We packed up & headed to our motel rooms. Had hot showers & walked to prize giving. Great prizes as always were given away and our team received a couple of them. Tutuakaka is a wonderful little spot to go, the people and hospitality of folk are awesome. Go up there one day, it's outstanding.

We headed off to the restaurant, had a wonderful meal, tummies full and eye lids almost closing. Sunday morning we rose to a gorgeous sunny day, no rain just clear blue sky. Had breakfast in the motel giggled about the event. Gathered ourselves and toddled off to our transport and said our goodbyes.

Home at last, what an adventure. Another exciting weekend had by all.

O bugger…………the wet gear from the weekend, always washing to do, ain’t that right BUSTING!

Till next time, Linda Ashton

Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta, Viaduct Harbour, Monday 30 January 2017

It wasn't for a wine and a meal that season newbie Jo Hooper headed to the Viaduct for on this occasion ...

We gathered at the Viaduct early ready to race. The day started and continued in perfect conditions with 24 degrees and next to no wind (could this be true after all these windy training sessions?) Being my first competitive race I was looking forward to the day and the opportunity of putting into practice all the elements we had concentrated on in training. Also nice to be at the Viaduct for a purpose other than eating and drinking!

Dressed in our racing shirts and with our light racing paddles it was exciting getting into the small, much less stable, boats. The beautiful dragon heads and tails were attached and with drum in front the boats were quite magnificent. The first two races were run close together and we did good times in both. We came third in our first race and a close fourth in the second, with a mixed team taking first place.

We had a long break before our 3rd race which gave us a chance to check out the opposition’s styles, have lunch, shelter from the sun and have a chat of course. In our 3rd race we knocked a few seconds off our previous race time and it felt really good employing the race plan we had gone over in training and seeing the results. In the final we were up against Bay Dragons, Waikato Treasure Chest and Jaffettes Red and came in an extremely close third with only .85 of a second separating 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

Paddling in the Viaduct in the confined space and calm water was a whole different experience to training and the feeling of the boat lifting and responding to our efforts during the race was very strong. The day was filled with a lovely sense of competitive spirit and good sportsmanship between all teams.

It’s a long time since I’ve been part of a sports team and it feels great to be part of a fabulous group of friendly women who have had a shared experience and to improve fitness at the same time. Go Busting!