Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival 2012 Commercial
Club Crew World Championships are held every two years and are often confused with the World Championships which are also every two years but are on alternating years. Club crew is supposed to be a race of clubs around the world. Think of the World Championships as the olympics where the best paddlers from each country compete, but club crew are the actual clubs and are not supposed to be conglomerate teams competing for a world title. This year's Club Crew World Championships was held the first week of July which coincided with the 15th anniversary of Hong Kong's transfer from British to Chinese sovereignty on June 30, 1997. Most of the team arrived a few days prior to the festivities and were treated to a spectacular fireworks show over the harbor.
photo by Scott Wu
Hong Kong is one of two special administrative regions (SARs) of the People's Republic of China, the other being Macau. It is situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is known for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour. With a land mass of 426 sq mi and a population of seven million people, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Hong Kong's population is 95 percent ethnic Chinese and 5 percent from other groups. Hong Kong's Han Chinese majority originate mainly from the cities of Guangzhou and Taishan in the neighbouring Guangdong province. (wikipedia)
On Monday, July 2, the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Association hosted their festival races, while only lasting a single day provided valuable experience for all involved, especially our caller and steerers. The weather and water conditions were unlike anything we had experienced before and were as much of a challenge as our competitors. The race venue was held in Victoria Harbour, in East Tsim Sha Tsui.
The Los Angeles Racing Dragons earned the honor of representing the Western Region of the United States at the 2012 Club Crew World Championships in Hong Kong. We were joined by other United States teams including Philadelphia, DCH Racing (New York), Windy City (Chicago), TECO (Florida), San Diego, and Wasabi (Portland).
We experienced the highest level of club crew racing. Prior to racing in Hong Kong, I have never seen a team complete a 500m race in 1 minute 49 seconds, nor have I seen a team win a 200m race in 41 seconds (both times by Shunde Dragon Boat Club). The racing was truly unbelievable. Race heats had a maximum of 9 boats per heat from all over the world. I will never forget looking around in the marshalling area at paddlers from countries all over the world - South Africa, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Canada, China, Macau, Philippines, and Australia to name a few.
It was as if we were racing amongst giants. As is typical with LARD, we were one of the smallest teams in stature but still managed to put our Long Beach community on the map.
Steersmen were given the ultimate test. To protect from the brutal currents and waves of the Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong brought in a series of barges in hopes of protecting the race course. Obviously, all of the crews and their steersmen were world caliber but it didn't matter. Even with the barges in place, multiple steersman lost control zig zagging across lanes and sometimes literally running over other dragon boats (one paddler was hit by another boat and was taken away with a concussion). One of the steersman literally fell out of his boat while snapping his steering oar in half. In one of our turns in the 2000m, a caller fell into the water after wake and waves side-swiped their boat. Multiple boats sunk because they took in too much water during their race. Pure carnage!
Paddlers and steersmen were not the only ones tested. The LARD captains Crystal and Tabitha had to deal with perhaps the most paperwork I have ever seen related to a single race. With the help of the LARD board, our captains were able to keep us organized and sane.
My personal highlights included having the opportunity to race against Philadelphia in two heats. For those of you new to dragon boat, Philly is the elite dragon boat team in the USA. They pretty much win everything and a core of their paddlers make up a good portion of the USA National Team (not club crew). Our premier mixed crew raced Philly as well as Windy City in a 200m semi final and were able to best our USA counterparts by clocking in at 46.763 seconds. Also, our open team faced off with Philly in a 500m repechage. We were able to hold Philly off for about 490 meters but Philly, being the champions they are, nudged us out at the finish line by 0.2 seconds. Still, a remarkable result considering the last time we faced off with them a few years ago they beat us by about 2 boat lengths.
For those of you that have yet to experience a Club Crew World Championship, here are a few interesting notes that we don't see to often in our local festival races - we didn't wear pfds while racing, each paddler was assigned a number that we had to wear on our uniforms that were cross checked multiple times with the picture IDs we wore around our necks to insure that no teams would cheat with their rosters, we raced 3 distances (200m, 500m, 2000m) in 2 divisions (mixed and open) over a span of 6 days, the conditions were so rough that they reduced the amount of paddlers in a boat from 20 to 18 and recommended all crews leave row 1 empty (a few teams did not heed this advice and ended up sinking), and finally, the water in Victoria Harbour is extremely dirty. You will never hear me complain about water quality at Mother's Beach.
Thanks to our supporters across the Long Beach community and to our sponsors Kialoa and Stohlquist.
During the Festival practice, there was no doubt that I was a bit hesitant to jump into the rocky waters of Victoria Harbour without a PFD. I will tell you now that it was the first time I was able to paddle without the restriction of a PFD and boy, does it feel different. The amount of reach, hinge, and rotation that you're able to do is phenomenal. It's a pretty liberating feeling. However, the fact that the boat was crazy unstable the first few times around made me feel like I wish I had a PFD. But after a few runs with our focused Festival crew, I started getting the hang of the feel of the water and the thought of actually capsizing began to subside substantially. I felt like we really began to adjust to the motion and began to lock down our program. The practice definitely helped prepare us for the craziness which ensued during the actual festival race.
Victoria harbour water was the craziest water I've paddled in. First getting on the water even at the docks it felt like the boat was going to flip. I was probably death gripping the paddle due to fear a lot of the time on the water when we weren't paddling. Eventually though it didn't feel as bad, but boy was I glad to be on hard solid land.
Aiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! The screams of hundreds of pre-pubescent girls impaled my brain. This is not the dragon boat festival I know! They swarmed against the railings and screamed their adulation to the boat below. I had no idea what was going on at the time, but from what I've since learned, some Korean boy band was participating in the races. 2PM, not to be confused with 2AM, were part of Monday's festivities.
It was crazy seeing throngs of teenage girls chasing after buses which were supposedly carrying a Korean boy band. What was even crazier was seeing the Korean boy band marshall alongside dragon boat teams in the line leading up to the dragon boat docks.
|teamLARD powered by Kialoa||500m Div B||3rd Place||02:13.52|
The festival race day arrived, and you can feel the amped-up aura the festival crew was emanating. There were only two races for us to do, and both races were of the upmost importance. With the first heat, there were a few things that threw us off. Most of us were expecting an audible "GO" or an air horn, but instead it was a gunshot. With an unexpected start, we were experiencing fairly heavy and rocky waters as both boats that surrounded us took off. The amount of surrounding noise from the water and the other boats dampened the volume of Kat's calls. Despite all these unexpected events, we were still able to finish out the race and managed to get placed into Comp B. Taking what we learned from our first race, we were able to have a much stronger and focused start, were able to stabilize the boat with consistent back and forward body movement, and utilized the cox box to amplify Kat's calls. With all these improvements and the experience from the first heat, we finished strong in third place for the Comp B finals and were given a lovely plate to bring home!
photo by Scott Wu
|1st||DCH Racing II 7||2:06:070|
|2nd||Montreal Grand Dragons||2:07:060|
|3rd||22Dragons True Grit||2:09:420|
|5th||TeamLARD powered Kialoa||2:16:100|
|7th||Ocean Dragon Diehards||2:25:100|
|8th||Canberra Gril Grammer School C||2:32:780|
There was only one thing that I kept telling myself... Do not fall into the nasty waters of Victoria Harbour!!! For the very first race for Festival, as we crossed the finish line, I heard a loud snap and splash. The steersperson from the boat next to us had snapped his oar in half and had fallen in the water. I found out later that it was one of the DCH teams. With so many races, you have no idea how happy I was that LARD did not have any accidents and that I never had to go into that nasty water.
Festival racing. Photo by Vincent Chao
The day of the actual festival race I was really antsy. I usually get nervous on any race but the races I would be in the next days were a completely different scale. In the first heat, everyone could tell we had jitters. I especially watched Ev align the boat at the starting dock so I could know and get familiar with the currents when it was my turn to align the boat. The highlight of the day was looking at the Thai team and their crazy rate. The asian teams of China, Philippines, and Thailand are all using a rate not seen in North America. Hey, if it works for them in this part of the world right?
"I felt like I raced two pieces in one"
Anyway, So the second heat comes and here we are lining up to the starting dock. Never in my life would I get so tired. So the current was pushing crazily on the left side of the boat so it was always constantly drifting right. And of course there had to be a boat that was taking their sweet time getting to the dock. So I was constantly drawing for around 10 minutes praying the starting official got this heat under weigh. Eventually, we came down the course and man did it feel good to paddle straight rather than sideways haha. The actual piece felt a lot better too. The drawing to the left during alignment had me spent. I felt like I raced two pieces in one so I was very grateful that I let it ride on the marshalling strokes back to the loading dock.
For the final heat of the festival races everyone knew what to expect. How the course was laid out. How much of a cluster the marshalling area was. j/k lol the piece was the best feeling one of the day also so it was satisfying to know that we kept improving. One thing I did note though was that the currents and water conditions continually got worse as the day progressed. Not only were the currents stronger, there were bigger wakes. All of that combined with the fact that the boats were running closer together so there was dirty water and the actual water patterns were completely unpredictable. It was a valuable lesson for the upcoming races.
All in all, I enjoyed paddling in the festival portion of the LARD trip. It gave me great, early exposure to the water conditions as well as a bit of practice before the men's open team starts. I ended that day looking forward to the seemingly never ending stream of teams I have yet to meet as well as all of the potential girls -- ahem sorry jerseys -- I can trade away :)
|2nd||FCRCC Supersonic Dragonflies||02:12.61|
|3rd||TeamLARD powered Kialoa||02:13.52|
|5th||Canberra Gril Grammer School A||02:19:05|
|6th||Arizona Gila Dragons||02:20.87|
500m Division B 3rd Place
So Jeannie and I showed up a little late due to flight constraints and Tuesday was our first exposure to the wonderful waters of the Hong Kong harbour.
First off, it was hot. And yes, the humidity makes it so much worse. I sweat a lot. A LOT. And while this normally helps me keep my sanity in the heat, sweating a lot in 80% humidity is your body being too stupid to realize that sweating only makes you more uncomfortable because the humidity guarantees the sweat doesn't evaporate the same way making me just angry.
I haven't paddled without a life vest in years and I gotta say, I miss it. There is a freedom of movement that is so wonderful, it was almost enough to make me forget the rocking of the boat. Almost.
Tempe this year was the windiest we had ever experienced. It was so windy that the organizers felt it was too dangerous and cancelled many of the races. Tempe might have been windier, but the chop was all in one direction. The harbour here was bizarre. You would have a little chop from the wind but you would also simultaneously have large side swells that for me made me wish I had bought some dramamine. This is a flat water sport. What the heck were we doing paddling in these conditions?
Okay, I'll admit it. I was a little worried. It took me a bit to get used to the rocking. But it was not enough training. Race day would find me and many others slipping to the other side of the boat as the swells would eventually be several inches over the gunnel.
Breathing. Oh boy. The air was thick. I thought the heat meant I would just be uncomfortable, but the air density which was just uncomfortable as a tourist became downright painful when going at 100%. For me, it felt like an elephant on my chest. I just couldn't get enough oxygen in fast enough. Thankfully, after a few days of exertion, my lungs adapted and I was good to go for the races. Stupid me. I had yet to experience the true insanity of racing club crew.
Having so much fun in the CCWC 2000 meter race with Leon so boldly steering us in the corner turns and making really gutsy moves along the straight aways to position us into the turns. I especially liked how Leon took us from the outside lane and then turned sharply to give us the inside lane going into the 2nd turn. And then how disciplined the team was after we veered off coming out of the 2nd turn to recover our composure and get back into the race.
The bumpy waves which rocked us throughout the races. It was as if we riding "water moguls" (similar to the moguls in downhill skiing) and coming off each mogul, the boat could shift right, left, up or down. It was both fun and challenging trying to paddle while staying in our seats.
The level of competition at the CCWC was impressive. It showed me that we have a lot of room for improvement. It was really a great learning experience and the week really did turn out to be a dragon boat racing boot camp for me. I hope we all take what we learned and use it to win in our local races.
|2nd||Hong Kong Island Paddle Club||8:15.693|
|3rd||New Dragons Racing Club Toronto||8:17.207|
|4th||Pacific Dragons Sydney||8:17.487|
|5th||Singapore Paddle Club||8:18.046|
|6th||JiuJiang Windsor Arch Dragon Boat Team Foshan city,Guangdong prov.||8:20.133|
|7th||22 Dragons Montreal, QC||8:21.286|
|9th||Outer Harbour DBC Toronto||8:26.553|
|10th||Philadelphia Dragon Boat Association||8:31.014|
|11th||Brisbane River Dragons||8:31.080|
|12th||Los Angeles Racing Dragons||8:43.720|
|13th||BGC Stormy Dragons||8:43.787|
|14th||Te Waka Dragons Brisbane||8:49.427|
|16th||Dragon Boat Club Meilen Meilen/ Switzerland||8:50.700|
|17th||Ice Dragons Canberra||8:51.200|
|18th||Southside Massive Urban Gorrilaz Hong Kong||8:55.406|
|19th||DCH Racing New York Flushing||9:10.333|
|20th||Triton Dragon Boat Racing Team Manila||9:12.046|
|21st||TECO Tan Anou Tampa, Florida||9:12.800|
|22nd||Monte Dragons Cape Town||9:19.480|
|23rd||Kingston Royals London||9:26.147|
|24th||Blue Sky Sports Club Hong Kong||9:27.286|
2000 meters at CCWC Hong Kong. 1.24 miles to you American types. 9.94 furlongs for you English gentlemen types. Whatever country you’re from, it boils down to 2 laps around the harsh waves and aromatic waters of Victoria Harbour. The 2000 meters might be the most exciting race in the lineup because it is so different from a standard lane race. In the 2000m, there is only 1 lane (dictated by the 4 corner buoys) and multiple boats trying to fight their way through the straightaways and especially through the corners. The boats are started every few seconds apart and unlike the lane races, the results are determined by time and not final placement. That, however, does not mean that boats cannot try to overtake other boats.
The LARD open crew was thrown into this fray with a limited amount of practice but boy did we show the world what Los Angeles dragonboating can do. It is not all about sunshine and parties with the celebrity of the week down here in Southern California. The LARD men powered through the race course and within half a lap we were up at the tail of the boat in front of us. Due to competitive nature of the other boats, passing was quite hard and due to the choppy conditions and the boats positioning, the LARD open crew had a slight run off course in the middle of the race. The boat was so powerful the steering oar was bending trying to control the aggression. I do not know if the mishap set off the adrenaline of the men any more, but even through our detour we were up at the tail of the boat again within a few seconds.
I have never been more tired in my life as the easy all was called at the finish line of this epic race. I did not care about the time or what place we finished in. All I know is that this IS the strongest endurance piece LARD has ever done. Watching parties from other team were even impressed with how LARD raced and how strong and determined we were. We are proud of what we achieved and proud of the race we just raced and I bet you any men on the boat are just aching til the next time we get to conquer the 2000 meters.
|1st||Shunde Dragon Boat Club||8:05.433|
|2nd||Dragon Team Nymburk||8:14.166|
|3rd||JiuJiang Windsor Arch Dragon Boat Team Foshan city,Guangdong prov.||8:21.713|
|4th||22 Dragons Montreal, QC||8:23.333|
|5th||Pacific Dragons Sydney||8:24.094|
|7th||City Dragons Sydney||8:36.940|
|8th||Philadelphia Dragon Boat Association||8:46.287|
|9th||New Dragons Racing Club Toronto||8:46.420|
|10th||Singapore Paddle Club||8:52.520|
|11th||DCH Racing New York Flushing||9:01.654|
|12th||SAFSA Dragon Boat Team Singapore||9:06.380|
|13th||Ice Dragons Canberra||9:06.474|
|14th||eYP Cebu Dragons Manila||9:08.300|
|15th||Lamma Dragons Hong Kong||9:10.220|
|16th||Hong Kong Island Paddle Club||9:13.747|
|17th||Abu Dhabi Mar||9:24.233|
|18th||Los Angeles Racing Dragons||9:29.227|
|19th||Onslaught Racing Dragons Manila||9:38.766|
|20th||Monte Dragons Cape Town||9:45.120|