Hi there! This is Rhi from Loose Connections and Zebra Stripes and my awesome Aunty B has let me guest post on her blog - Hoorah!!!!!!
Here in Australia Dragon Boating is becoming an increasingly popular sport and we also have an amazing organisation Dragons Abreast, which are dragon boat teams around the country consisting entirely of men and women who are battling, or have previously battled breast cancer.
The dragons abreast teams are inspiring to say the least and the eye catching pink uniforms and equally eye catching pink dragon boats are always easy to spot on the water!
Every year, the state branches of Dragons Abreast host a corporate regatta as a fundraiser and our state branch hosted their regatta yesterday.
42 school, hospital, business and embassy staff teams, equalling 900 competitors in total arrived at the lake with enthusiasm bubbling despite the fact it was only 7:30am!!
Whilst it is a competition and there are some fierce rivalries between teams, we are all there for the same reason and the spirit involved in this event is amazing and very much contagious.
There's enough pink to outdo the Barbie aisle, bras are everywhere including on male team members and the gingerbread men at the cake stall have breasts made from M & M's.
Team camps are set up along the shore, adorned with decorations and mascots and the amount of food everyone brings is enough to sink several dragon boats.
Uniforms are worn with pride and war paint in team colours is applied while war cries are chanted and team mascots disappear under mysterious circumstances and held hostage at other team camps.
Lymphomaniacs, Breast Strokes, Can't Row, Can't Swim and USAwesome were some of the stand out team names this year.
The real fun occurs when you're on the water because most team members are not regular dragon boaters. In fact, each team is allowed no more than 4 competitive paddlers in the boat so what you end up with is no less than 16 paddles working out how to do it as they go along!
Dragons Abreast arrange at least one training session for all teams so that everyone can at least know how to hold the paddle and become familiar with the calls and commands.
If you want to see something funny, watch a team learn to dragon boat for the first time. 20 people paddling in time to the beat of a drum while listening out for the sweep's commands is harder then it seems. When you get it right, you look like a well oiled machine but when you haven't got it yet, you resemble organised chaos in a boat.
I love dragon boating.
Can't Row, Can't Swim's war cry "Can't row, can't swim, we're not gonna let cancer win, still can't row, still can't swim, we're still not gonna let cancer win" was adopted by many of the other teams and it could be heard being chanted by all 6 teams at once as they raced down the lake.
A Mini Field of Women was set up for people to pay tribute to friends and family who's lives had been affected by breast cancer and became a place for reflection, each pink lady a reminder of why we were participating in the regatta.
For safety reasons, the organisers arrange qualified Drummers (the people who drum the required paddle rhythm) and Sweeps (the people who steer the boat) and many were local school students from the school teams, including the school that I work at.
For our second heat, both our Drummer and our Sweep were our students. The Sweep stands at the boat, where they can see everything as they steer. The sweep tells the Drummer the speed required and the paddlers listen to both the drum rhythm as well as the Sweep's commands.
We were placed in a situation where the Sweep had 20 of her teachers in a boat and she was the boss. Needless to say, she had a field day...
"Heads in the boat ladies, eyes straight ahead... for God's sake ladies, CONCENTRATE!"
"Mrs Smith, stop perving on the race starter, I'll tell Mr Smith!"
"For the next 200m we aren't ladies. When that gun goes off we need to grunt harder than Anna Kornakov"
"Ladies, you need to paddle hard, harder then you've ever paddled before. Paddle like you've just spotted someone in incorrect uniform"
I honestly don't know how we finished that race at all because we were all
in absolute hysterics, struggling to breathe with tears streaming down our cheeks. The fact that all this was said in a very serious tone mimicking the PE teacher who happened to be in the boat just added to the humour - "at least she proved that they do listen to us occasionally!"
That race was the highlight of the day for me!
If you get the opportunity, get a team together and enter the Dragons Abreast Regatta (I know there are several DA teams overseas, particularly in Canada). You don't need to know what you're doing - all you need is spirit!
Maybe one day we won't just paddle to the finish line, maybe we'll paddle to a cure...
* Also, I'm just so excited to find a sport that allows my Ehlers - Danlos Syndrome affected body to maim and kill in a competitive manner again!