|We Be Draggin' after practice|
Practice one: It was cold. We struggled into our grungy, public-use life vests as a toned team of kids in matching Under Armour and professional paddles ignored us. Training involved:
Water safety (what to do if you fall out of your boat)
Practice two: it was warmer. Our trainer told us we were improving...a bit
Practice three: Initially, our trainer yelled instructions, helped us set the pace and kept us in sync. By our third session, however, that job fell to the drummer.
The drummer is perched on a tiny “seat” in the bow of the boat (see top photo). She faces the paddlers as well as the steerer who stands in the stern. If the drummer is good, her efforts get the boat off the starting line quickly, establish an efficient race pace, and then inspire the team to a sprint finish. If the race doesn't go well, everyone knows whom to blame.
|We Be Draggin' preparing for finals|
As our final race approached, Eithne settled into her drum seat and beat a steady, don't-hurt-yourself pace to get our boat into starting position. The wind over the Potomac calmed and the waves lulled our dragon into thinking we were out of contention. But as soon as the starting gun fired, the combined energy of our frenzied drummer and her crew rocketed us into the river, kept us neck and neck with the two high school teams to our right and left and finally allowed us to inch into the lead. In the end, We Be Draggin' went home with gold (in the D division).
It was a very good day.
Check out these resources to find a Dragon Boat Festival near you. You're just in time to get ready for the 2011 season!
The American Dragon Boat Association
The International Dragon Boat Federation
Worldwide Dragon Boat Calendar