In a couple of weeks time it's the annual regatta here in Kettwig and there's a group of us taking part in the Saturday Dragonboat race.
I talked about it before and back then we were very bolshy about it all being about the taking part and having fun and drinking beer whilst oggling men in lycra (there's serious rowing action going on too) and totally poo poohed the notion of training. That was for wimps and Germans* and not for the team that was concentrating on co-ordinating their nail art with their hoodies with their wigs...
Then a (German) friend got in touch about training, saying she had a couple of friends who raced (like seriously) in a couple of dragonboat teams down in Mulheim (next town down river) and that they'd be more than happy to 'help' us...
So there we were yesterday in a 20 man boat on a river that was as grey and threatening as the sky while Jan-Dominik (the steuerman** and trainer) shouted abuse and encouragement (depending on how well we were doing) at us.
As I said, it was a 20 man boat...we have registered to race as a 10 woman team but the gender wasn't the issue (fortunately boats aren't sexist) the numbers were. When we organised the training session we knew we needed to blackmail as many partners/friends/children into helping out but even with those extras we were still only looking at 17 people but we ended up with only 14, and only five of those were actual team.
However, the lack of numbers didn't stop our training session, although I think most of us would have willingly taken a tow from the pleasure cruiser that puttered past playing some godawful muzak and ensuring the air being sucked into our lungs was diesel heavy. I think what surprised most of us was just how much fun it was, in spite of the cold weather and wet water, and despite expecting to wake up to an aching shoulder and blistered palms I am uninjured (unlike the 90 minutes rollerblading around the Baldeneysee a couple of weeks ago - that bruise is still fading)
There is much more to powering a dragon boat than just dipping the paddle in and out of the water, as we learnt yesterday. First there's the start position - the paddle has to be in the water and so you have to consciously hold it still because depending on the flow of the river the paddle gets pushed/pulled away from where it should be, I think we're supposed to dip the paddles when the steuerman says 'attention' and then actively paddle on the 'go'...I might need to go over this before the race with other team members like Karen or Emma , in the hope that their memory/hearing/understanding is holding up better than mine...Although before the start position there's the 'how to hold the paddle correctly' - inner hand on the top and outer hand*** at the bottom end of the stick at the top of the paddley bit that actually goes in the water, this hand and arm gets very wet, by the end of the session I could wring out my sleeve, and am seriously considering getting extra long marigolds (in pink naturally) for the day of the race.
Then there were the different paddle strokes, the one to five, high power, fast take off stroke and then the one to ten longer stroke - not completely sure of the use or point of this one as surely if you want to win you just have to be as fast and powerful as you can, especially as we're only racing over 250m...
One thing none of us expected was that after plowing up and down the Ruhr to the amusement of the Sunday walkers and hauling the boat out of the water we had to wash it...bit odd really seeing as it had just spent an hour in water that is clean enough for fish to live in and I was under the impression that cleaning in Germany was
All in all a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, roll on October 13 when we do it all again, but for real.
|this a fraction of the team and a fraction of the outfits we'll be sporting on the day|
* not that Germans are wimps, far from it, but they do (in my experience) take everything seriously, so if you can train for something then you do.
** steuerman = guy that stands on the back of the boat and ensures you go in the right direction and don't bash up his (probably very expensive) boat or mow down some unsuspecting and innocent rowers.
*** with two bums per bench it's pointless saying left and right hand.
**** verboten = forbidden.