By Intrepid Sweep Peter “Willow” Wilson
It was a perfect Sunday morning with a light breeze and all the cracks had gathered for the fray – the inaugural Komodo 8km challenge. There was the wily Griffins, the gracious Dragon Flyers, a big turnout of crafty Komodos making 20’s and 10’s boats, and a motley crew of odd Ice Dragons, NavMats and ‘spare’ Komodos (officially called the “IceKoMats”) but quickly dubbed the Mixed Mongrels….grrrrr!
Kim “Pants” Toussaint soon cracked the whips and had everyone sorted and config’ed and warming up to Coop’s screeching pterodactyls and cat tossing. Sweeps were briefed, rules established, and that old friendly rivalry started to emerge – there were murmurs of running boats into the bridge pylons and blocking the Kingston canal muttered under shady glances – this was going to be a race!!
Paddlers loaded boats with trepidation and calls to their gods to get them through this torment of endurance. Coaches steadied the nerves and calmed the youngsters with a quiet “you got this!” The Mixed Mongrels were blessed with a sighting of JC in their midst as the boats moved out for a warmup and balance check, nerves and muscles tense.
Punchy called the boats to attention and expertly formed up the starting line – she knew the importance of the next few minutes and those first few starting stokes that all the crews were nervously focussed on – although she was happily thinking about her next 40 minutes of relaxation and coffee.
They’re off – 1 minute intervals separated the boats at the start and we all headed off to the first bridge, gaining our momentum and settling into that steady pounding rhythm, while contending with the washing machine wash from the ferry under the bridge. All eyes went to the Komodo’s 10s but they bobbed happily through the waves with their power packed crew laying down the law.
Passed the crowds of onlookers near Commonwealth Park, one boat (unidentified) was seen to mysteriously veer off chasing a swan or maybe it was just a lapse in concentration of an inexperienced sweep thinking this was all too easy? Up to the Kings Ave bridge and the Mixed Mongrels were starting to show their teeth, with a daring move that threaded the eye of the needle between the Griffs and Flyers, and with some BIG 10s and committed lifts, they took the lead heading into the Kingston canal. The yuppy latte set was agog with their Sunday brunch suddenly shattered by boat loads of crazed warriors erupting into view like a Viking death charge. Mothers grabbed children, babies howled, fathers grabbed butter knives and coffee mugs ready to repel the invaders…………. But in a blink the muscled crews and their screaming sweeps were past and away, around the bouys and setting sights for home.
Pulling out all they had, all crews made seemingly tireless yet endless lifts and gave everything for their bench-buddys all the way back down the lake. Places were jostling and it was impossible to know who was in the lead, but all crews wanted it and fought on with grim determination to hit the finish line and the welcome call of Punchy’s horn. Within minutes all crews were back in the home bay, grinning, laughing, cheering, giving thanks and praise to the gods that they’d made it (with never a doubt from super coach Kim).
Still grinning from ear to ear, boats were stowed and back slapping was prominent, the results were compiled by the intrepid Punchy and read out to the massed teams. Only five minutes separated the five boats – what an enormous effort from everyone involved, and especially the organisers that worked so hard to pull off this fantastic event. Of course, there was a winner – and that was the dragon boat sport and the Canberra paddling fraternity and community spirit.
Thanks for the Komodo hospitality, the multi-club participation and the smile and laughter of beautiful people. The calls were loud and clear for this to become an annual event, and me for one, can’t wait. Well done all.