Words that flow...

Words and images - powerful elements of our everyday life. Most of the time we take them for granted, but sometimes something happens to make you aware of how important they are... and how thankful you are to have the opportunity to use or appreciate them. Here lies some of my words and pictures (which are untouched apart from cropping, unless I've said otherwise) - Please add your words to mine, and leave a comment. Thanks for visiting!

16 September 2007

Dragon Boat Race

I had two things I wanted to write about today, but I've been sharing so much sadness lately, that I decided I would go with my day yesterday...

Before the summer holidays, at the last Ticehurst School fete I would ever go to with my daughter being at the school, I offered to (was roped into) doing the Dragon Boat Festival in September. It is an annual charity event held at the local Bewl Reservoir, and this year was the tenth anniversary.

Each team should aim to raise a thousand pounds for the charity of their choice. This meant that each team member should try and raise at least a hundred pounds.

I'd done the race twice before and had really enjoyed it, but not for the last couple of years. With all that's happened this summer, I must admit I'd totally forgotten about my offer, and since there were no reminders, it was a shock last Monday when my colleague said, "So, are you still set for next Saturday then?"

I think my mouth must've dropped. I was only just back to work, and my arms were killing me with all the carrying of trays of equipment. I'd been falling asleep on the sofa, absolutely knackered, before the end of the day. My head said, "Don't do it!" But I knew the team needed the support.

I shame-facedly admitted I hadn't any sponsors, and felt I should drop out and let someone who had got sponsors race so they could claim the money. But I wanted to do it still. My lovely work colleagues quickly offered sponsor money, and I raised £70 (I'm still hoping to catch some that I hadn't beforehand :-) ) . So, I was put back into the team.

Here's a look at the day in pictures:

The Venue

Wow - couldn't have asked for a nicer start to the day.
The sky was blue, and the slight cloud covering
was perfect for heavy rowing, and being outside.

Our pitch was right on the edge, so we had a great view of the water,
the announcement tent and all the ambulance and first aid to the left of the picture,
down the slope. It wasn't ideal for the fund-raising stalls, but what the heck -
we probably had more space to lounge around than anyone else!

(It's a long day, and about an hour and a half between races)

There were lots of tents and marquees. Since it was a charity event, the tents
that belonged to the teams usually had one or two stalls , and then there were many other charities present in one form or the other.

As well as the marquees, there were the usual bouncy castles,
children's entertainments as well as live music, food, drinks bars and the like.
You couldn't go anywhere without something going on.

The Races

Nobody was allowed on the water before having a safety drill and instruction how to row a dragon boat: First how not to capsize the boat and what to do if it happens; secondly there are techniques peculiar to rowing in such a narrow boat with so many people - how to hold the oar, where to put it in, where to take it out, how to synchronise, how to move faster etc.
Even having done this twice before, the reminders were gratefully received.
It's easy to forget.

Re-adjustment of the bandana, to show we mean business.

I donned a life-jacket, and displayed my orange armband
to show I'd had the safety instruction before
being allowed near the dragon boat.

Trying to stand in the sitting order the helmsman
had suggested, we awaited our boat.

It was so lovely to wade through the green and blue algae.
The smell was particularly rank at the edge; and when you were out in it,
you could see big lumps of weed floating around.

Here we go...on the first attempt of three to get a time in the top ten.
We've gone out to the right, but the starting point at the dam is to the left.

Dark picture, but can you see our synchronisation even as we set out?
Hmmm... nor can I...

It often takes several times to get all the boats lined up with the starting post - a good time to practice strokes and synchronisation. That's us on the left, in front of the rescue boat. Can you see some people spectating from the dam?

You can be flaffing around for ages to get the dragon heads in line and stationary, but once lined up, the start is quick and you have to be ready. In the second race we used the 'racing start', with our oars already deep in the water, because our boat members were so heavy it took half the race to catch up in our first attempt (which was still our best of the three times!). This is towards the end of the second race, and you can see how neck and neck it is. We narrowly lost this one, as we did the first one.

Our third race, we were miles ahead, and thought we'd gone like a rocket, but our time was slower than our first and second races, probably due to our slower rivals - when you can't see anyone to the sides of you, you assume you're doing well.

The team - Ticehurst Terrors

Colourful Event

There were lots of colourful characters on the scene: sailors, knights, princesses and pirates; guys with boaters,wigs of lime green, rainbow stripes, red; guys in grass skirts and jelebees and habits... oh, I couldn't even remember all the costumes. Sadly I didn't see the big-busted transvestites I remember with affection from previous years:

There was the inevitable casualty of 16 adrenaline-pumped people in a very narrow boat (amazingly, only one this year!) We'd thought it might be us in the second race, as our heavy weighted team didn't sit well in the extremely narrow boat we'd been allotted, but thankfully it wasn't us!

The finale

It was a close race. Because we had the ninth fastest time of the ten teams in the race, we got to draw which boat (and therefore position) nearly last. We had boat 10, which was the only one without a dragon head on the front. Being 10 out of 10 we were positioned right at the far side.

There are advantages and disadvantages to being on the outside. The major advantage is that you don't clash oars with the other teams. The major disadvantage is that one half of the team have no concept of how well they are doing against the other teams (I was on the very far side, and hadn't a clue. I presumed, because all the other boats had done so much better than us throughout the day, that we were somewhere at the back...it really didn't matter - this was for charity, and fun.)

I hadn't expected my lovely daughter to remember to take a picture of this race, since the boys had turned up and she was messing around with them, but she took this video (the little love):

We knew we hadn't been left too far behind, but because our helmsman had kept us away from the other boats (good man!) we had no idea where we came. We really didn't care - we'd got into the finals, and that was all that mattered.

It was a fast race, and it felt as if we were totally 'in the zone' and in time. Sitting second from front, I couldn't be sure of this, but our new 'racing start' seemed to go smoothly into the normal strokes. It felt fast, but then we'd felt fast in the third race, when we'd been one and a half lengths in front of the nearest boat, but it turned out to be all relative. Whilst we were bracing the boat (putting the flat of the oars to the surface to steady the boat when the wash of the ten-boat race hit) we discussed how we did, and nobody had any idea where we came. Our drummer thought we didn't do too badly.

So, we rowed to shore, only glad we weren't last and hadn't capsized! It had been an exhilarating race, what else mattered?

After we'd returned the life-jacket and paddles, we tried to find from those on shore how we'd done. We got various answers. Most thought we weren't last, but apart from that, it varied widely. Some thought we'd done very well. Unfortunately, no-one had a view of the boats that was lined up with the finishing line, so nobody could be sure, and we decided we'd go and find out from the finishing ceremony.

We congregated round the familiar tent with the radio announcer, and the adjacent score board everyone had checked at least once in the day (we're number 8 "Ticehurst Terrors"):

Well, there were all the usual thanks to organisers of the event; to the boat organisers; to the helmsmen and (most importantly) to the sponsors.

When the speeches were over, and we were wondering if they were ever going to tell us how we did, they gave the placings in reverse order.

We knew we hadn't been last, and we didn't think we were second to last, so there were no surprises when they announced other teams for these places..

Then there was seventh and sixth place, which we hoped we hadn't got, but it was a good possibility. They gave other team names for these too.

There was a lot of cheering and clapping for each team, so it was hard to make out all the words, but we just wanted an idea where we came. Last year some of the team had rowed for Ticehurst and Flimwell Primary School's affiliated playgroup team, the Incredibugs and they'd come fifth. So, everyone was hoping we would be about equivalent to this, because we believed it as well as we could achieve, being as the top teams were so darned fast!

Well, fifth and fourth place were announced, and still it wasn't us. We were all looking at each other as if to ask 'did we miss him saying our name?' A couple shrugged. We didn't think so, but it was entirely possible. Might as well hear it to the end!

One of our supporters, a lady turned round as each team was announced, looking happier and happier each time. She had been convinced we'd done quite well and were in the top three.

The third place was announced and the trophy given to some other team. The second place trophy was given to the supreme champions of many years, "Wadhurst Warriors" (the guys in the grass skirts and lots of body make-up, who'd done a kind of Maori warrior dance before the finale to scare us all). I looked over at a couple of team members further away, and there was a mix of frowns - everyone thought we'd been either missed, or been given the wrong team name. We didn't know our place!

Then the winner was announced.

I don't think any of us had been more shocked, amazed and exhilirated - it was us, the Ticehurst Terrors!!!! We won! We'd won this major event. Us. A team from the little Sussex village of Ticehurst! There was a moment silence while we digested this, then screams and cheers and whoops of joy!

We went forward to have the winners medals (remembering to pick up one for the only team member to have had to go just before the final), and the team captain accepted the trophy to be displayed in the school. It was a mounted white china dragon, painted with gold.

We were taken aside and lined up for photos - behind the tent, in front of the tent, by the reservoir, with kids, without kids, smiling and looking tough... masses of photos. We felt like stars! And were were so high with it all, I think we might have floated amongst the constellations!

Here am I, running off with the trophy as everyone was packing up(er...can you see the triumph in my face? :-) )

Long after most had left, and the tents and marquees had gone, we were still doing a post mortem on the day's events. We still couldn't believe that we'd won. A guy next to me asked to be pinched to be sure he was awake, so I obliged. He concluded he was awake, but still didn't believe it. We'd won. We'd come first. How was that possible, with such good contenders?

So we went on to The Bull, a local pub in Ticehurst, to celebrate, and see if we could make sense of this amazing result. We were there a while, and the sun went down. There were periodic exclamations, "Wow, we've won! We came first!" and so forth:

This was one of the most stupendous days ever. I don't think it's going to be beaten for a very long time!!

I'm so glad I didn't drop out!! :-)

[For more photos of the day see the official dragonboat festival Momofoto site.]

© Annelisa Christensen 10:50 am

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At September 16, 2007 2:56 pm, Blogger Bob said...

What great fun. I was trying to think of songs that could have been sung during the race by each team but came up empty. Nothing seemed to fit the event. Enjoyed your post and the experience you had.

At September 16, 2007 3:20 pm, Blogger Pam said...

things always seem to come into place when least expected, don't they? :) congrats on your win...looked like everyone had fun.

At September 16, 2007 3:42 pm, Blogger Akelamalu said...

Oh well done Annelisa, and your team also!

It looks like a fabulous day - so much fun. I loved the videos and photographs. x

At September 17, 2007 12:55 pm, Blogger Pauline said...

Nice post Anelisa! Glad you were there in that race; seems it could only be beneficial ;)

At September 17, 2007 2:14 pm, Blogger Dana Barnett said...

Great job Annelisa,Glad you went and had fun...,That is so neat how you really get into things that benefit and help other's...,Keep it up the world needs more people like yourself...I find that we always have fun and feel happy when least expected and of course we feel good about ourselves when we are helping others...Great job!!!I donate to some charitys out here also and the fund drives are always fun and you get a chance to meat other very nice poeple who have feelings like yourself...,Take care,Dana...

At September 17, 2007 9:21 pm, Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Congrats to you and your dynamite team! I'd offer to be the drummer! HA! I wouldn't last too long at paddling. My husband was to do that race here and he was all geared up for it but then they canceled it because it was too unsafe since it was too windy. You are so,lucky to have been able to do this and be part of a team thing. It's the greatest feeling in the world, isn't it? I'm so glad you did it!

My friend does it for Breast Cancer and their whole team is survivors and their boats are all pink. They had the boats donated. They're going to Australia in a week for a big race. I think that's just so neat.

At September 18, 2007 10:43 am, Blogger TopChamp said...

Well done!! That's most impressive. I'm glad you decided to do it - I know how hard it can be to get back into the swing of things.

(Sorry I've not been around much - I have had internet troubles and your blog is not very narrow-band friendly. Pleased to have broadband back now though.)

At September 19, 2007 4:40 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats on your stunning upset!!!! I was on the edge of my seat wondering how you had done. That is fantastic all of you had such a great time. :)

At September 19, 2007 9:41 pm, Blogger twilite said...

Hi Annelisa! This is long but interesting. Congrats. Glad you went out and enjoy yourself. I love dragon boat race. How colorful and varied. Looking forward to more write.

At September 19, 2007 9:41 pm, Blogger twilite said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At September 19, 2007 9:52 pm, Blogger Unknown said...

Congrats, girlfriend!
There´s a dragonboat race "next door" every year. I have never participated, but we´re watching the great fun each year. Love the costumes =)


At September 20, 2007 2:11 pm, Blogger Farris Thorne said...

Way to go, team! Your victory proves you don't need a foot to kick butt... a paddle will do nicely! ft

At September 20, 2007 9:43 pm, Blogger QUASAR9 said...

Awesome Trophy
You look like you had fun and enjoyed yourself

At September 21, 2007 6:49 pm, Blogger Akelamalu said...

Only 5 weeks to half-term now! :) x


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