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Alcan Dragon Boat Festival

photo by Ildikó Tóth

My first ever dragon boat race was Alcan in 2011. It was an amazing introduction and I couldn’t wait to return this year. Hosted at False Creek in Vancouver, BC Canada, Alcan is a very immersive dragon boat experience.

There were 96 Mixed Division (coed) teams. We were pleased to be ranked in Competitive B again this year.

photo by Ildikó Tóth

The Racer’s Village is an amazing site. There are hundreds of teams in the village, camped out for the weekend. It is the ultimate tailgate party. I love walking through the isles of tents to see the great set-ups teams have. The women’s teams always seem to have the best catering! The blind teams have a great sense of humor. They have names like Vision: Impossible, Out of Sight Dragons, and Blind Ambition. They are a great inspiration to all paddlers.

photo by Tracy Ross

Every team has their warm up ritual. Some are very elaborate or intimidating. Others look like Jazzercise. The DJ keeps the beats going to make it fun.

photo by Tracy Ross

This year we were hosted by Dragon Hearts Ultimate. The Anniemaniacs hosted them last year at the Portland Dragon Boat Festival and plan to do so again this year. We’ve developed a nice relationship with them and they took fantastic care of us. They fed and watered us. They even invited us to dinner at a wonderful Asian grill.

photo by Annie Duong

2012 is the year 4709 by the Chinese calendar and the year of the Water Dragon. That was evident on Saturday. It rained All. Day. Long. We were freezing and miserable. We managed to keep our sense of humor and hunger to win even if we couldn’t keep dry.

photo by Tracy Ross

In our first heat we took first at 2:12.5 (500 m). Our second heat was against the other 1st place teams in earlier heats. We came in 5th at 2:17.46. I have no idea where we picked up that extra 5 seconds. The cold must have seeped into our bones. It was really disappointing.

photo by Ildikó Tóth

Sunday lived up to it’s name. there was a light drizzle in the morning followed by a beautiful day. We finished our first heat of the day in 4th place at 2:13.19. Our tiller actually had to slow us down at the finish to keep from tipping in the wake. 4th wasn’t great, but the time showed that we were getting back on track. We enjoyed lunch together in the festival food court and fueled up for the final battle: Comp B finals.

Sticky rice with ground pork + Jamaican Island Mix smoothie = YUM!

Annie gave us a fantastic pep talk. “This is why we come to Alcan,” she said. We had fresh memories of what it felt like to stop at border control on the way home and reply, “Yes, we do have something to declare–VICTORY!” as we held up our Comp B 3rd place medals in 2011. We felt like we had something to prove and were eager to race.

photo by Ildikó Tóth

As we approached the start line there was a strong tail wind and all of the teams had difficulty holding the boats. We struggled to gain alignment, then Madam Racecaller asked us to reset the start to keep things fair. It was very frustrating to circle all of the boats back around again. It’s like loading horses into the starting gate, then saying, “Oh, they aren’t straight, let’s take them all out and reload.” You can imagine what that does to your adrenaline. We finally achieved alignment and we were off.

The Portland Fire Dragons blew away the rest of the field with a time of 2:00.00. The rest of the finishers were in tight competition and it was impossible to know our place. We finished seven of eight in Comp B at 2:05.48, making us the 15th best team of 96. Not too shabby, though it was a drop from 11th last year. To demonstrate how tight the field was:

Making Comp B also qualified us for Guts & Glory, a 2000 m race with 3 turns. There are no medals for Guts-n-Glory, only bragging rights. It is a staggered-start race with the last place team in Comp B starting first, and the first place team in Comp A starting last. Each boat is timed individually. “Like Nascar, only with boats.” one of my teammates said. We got to start second, won the right of way on the first turn, blew past the first boat after the second turn, and took a definitive lead to cross the finish line first. We finished 3rd of the Comp B teams, 10th over all, and we were faster than one of the Comp A teams! Not too shabby indeed.

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  1. June 22, 2012 at 16:33

    Guts and Glory results prove at least one thing: we are in shape enough, just not in best sprinting shape. Let’s work on it!

  2. meannie
    June 22, 2012 at 17:28

    ok i’ll admit it here, on the web: guts n’ glory is WHY we came to ALCAN 🙂

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