Roving Reporter Trevor Plant

The weekend of 17-19 Feb brought Komodian’s from their home lake to the big smoke to race against teams from across Australia on Sydney’s iconic Darling Harbour over 180m. The weekend was filled with racing, recovery and a formalised plan to create Komodo’s new home in the South Pacific.

The racing on Darling Harbour always has a little more excitement attached – after thumping your way down the 180m course in a twenties boat, the water starts to run out and a big wall appears. Adrenalin is pumping by the time the sweep screams “Stop, Stop, Stop the boat!” Hopefully they remember to call the “Big 10, Power Home!” before the finish line so that you aren’t accelerating into the wall.

While most of the crew were smashing out a Friday work day prior to slogging their way up the highway, Club President Chris Mills was getting the weekend off to a corporate racing start. Chris paddled with a team of veterans supported by Invictus Australia competed in the Corporate cup racing. Chris is one of AusDBF’s veteran ambassadors, providing an opportunity to veterans to experience paddling and find new options for participating in sport. Chris and the team finished first in their final – a fantastic result given they had been paddling together for only a month. Thanks for flying the Komodo flag on Day 1, El Presidente and congratulations on the result!

Away race weekends always bring some extra challenges – where do I get my morning half-caf, double decaf latte with a little lemon twist? Who prepares the best smashed avo on sourdough? Where the hell are we going to find shade and shelter from the heat in the concrete furnace that surrounds the water. Queue the W! This year our early rising stealth team secured primo position under the W hotel – close to marshalling and amenities for those last minute dashes prior to racing.

Komodo entered a mixed team in the Saturday racing and needed to crack the top 24 to be invited to race in the Inaugral Sydney International Grand Championship. Progression through Saturday heats was through time and there were 60+ crews entered on the day. Komodo’s first race was Heat 7 and first place was secured in a tick over 49 sec. Sweep Tom was acclimatising to the course and trying to locate the supposed finish line, had a minor misjudgement and called the “Big10, power home!” over the line (after the beep) and that big wall got awful close awful quick! A full twenties boat with the right motivation (no land in the boat) can stop in two boat lengths – trust me on that!

One of the nice things about the “festival of hurry up and wait” in a city like Sydney and a weekend like Lunar New Year, is the chance to catch up with paddling friends from interstate – and Komodos were spotted flirting from Flames to Sloths to Different Strokes and Pendragons, renewing acquaintances and reliving stories of battle in boats.

Round 2 arrived in heat 18 and Komodo once again cracked the 50 mark to take out the heat and advance to the minor final. Lane 3 was proving a happy hunting ground, although that damn wall was still getting closer as we powered up close to or after the line. Everyone held their nerve and brakes were applied.

The minor final saw Komodo draw lane 1 and finish fourth to wrap up a fantastic 10th overall and earn the right to paddle on the Sunday in the big show. The crew had gotten their rhythm and power dialled in early and took it to the big names all day.

Saturday night was all about recovery – good food, fine beverages and refreshments – and continuing the plan for world domination. During dinner, the initial meeting of the new Cabinet of Komodia – our dreamtime home – was convened. The master plan was developed to build a high performance paddling centre on a small-ish Pacific island with top notch training facilities and accommodation, all funded through the careful mining of the recently discovered rare earth metal Komodium, essential for making all sort of electronic devices. Appointments to the cabinet were confirmed – the portfolios of Health, Sport and Recreation, Border Control & Law enforcement, Science & Technology, and Administration were allocated and Komodian President Mills was confirmed in the role.

Komodia’s national paddling team identified a number of long distance paddling events to be raced (Yukon River, circumnavigation of Australia, etc) focusing on both Dragon Boat and canoe paddling – at 444miles (or 715kms) the Yukon race was considered to be ‘about the right size’ to get out of bed for, and with favourable weather would be completed inside 4 days. Meeting over, the cabinet adjourned for cocktails and nightcaps at the Presidential Hostel.

Day two arrived with more heat and a knockout style competition to progress from heats to finals. Day two also featured a very rare event – men on the drum seat. Yours truly drummed heat 1, Will quarter final and Paul Semifinal – final TBD.

A big shoutout to Phil from Colour City Dragons who was our allocated pool sweep for the day – steady lines and cool head as we raced through the day.

Heat 1 was a cracker with Komodo edging Sloths Rebels to the line and going straight to the quarter final. The quarter final was a quick affair with Komodo finishing behind Flames Gold in a tick over 48sec. Not too shabby at all!

Semi-final time (after some quick work from Captain Coops to correct a timing error) and Komodo finished 4th to bow out of the competition. All-in-all an amazing achievement – top 10 on day 1 and top 12 on day 2. Results that show an amazing degree of depth and commitment within the club, where any team we put on the water can slug it out with the best and achieve great things.

If you haven’t experienced the thrill of racing on Darling Harbour yet, make sure to EOI when registration opens next year – this is one of the highlights of the paddling calendar and is getting better each year. Next year it would be great to have mixed, opens and women’s boats. There really is nothing like the sight of a Twenties boat racing down 180m towards a wall … Lets you know you are alive!

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