This year I found a new passion, Dragon Boat racing, and Sunday was my first regatta. While I knew I would have fun (and suspected I’d be pretty average) I didn’t expect I’d go away with an experience and lessons that has already been relevant outside of competing and that I have already shared with so many people. And to become a Pacific Dragon, click here!

The first thing I learned: Dragon Boat races are by their nature short races, the shortest, 200 metres lasting only 50 to 55 seconds. Despite the pace, races are less about speed and more about power, technique and discipline. Every stroke of the paddle must be purposeful and powerful, every movement synchronized with your team mates. In my first race I certainly can’t say I embodied these principles. I was all over the place! Despite this, that race made everything click for me. This is what it is all about, the training, the various drills, all building up to this. Training makes us race better but racing has since made me train better too.


On this day we were a crew of mixed experience and this was pretty apparent in our first mixed race. It wasn’t as smooth as it could be. We weren’t all sync, some of us (me) were out of sync some of the time and the back of the boat was causing drag for the front (sorry guys). Despite this we could have pulled up a decent result if not for something that happened at the end of the race.

Which brings me to lesson two: Whatever is happening around you, the only thing that matters is what is inside your own boat.

About 10 strokes before the finish line, probably knowing we hadn’t gotten off to a great start, a number of us looked up, looked at where the other boats were, we got distracted, lost focus and lost the race (well came third, which is as good as for a competitive crew).

As the day went on we started to click. Each race was better than the last and the final race best of all. Which brings me to my third lesson: I have some big shoes to fill. I had heard from people who know the PDs that we boast some of the strongest women in the sport. This became pretty apparent to me in our final opens race where our crew of majority women held our own against crews of all men. We may not have won but we put in an effort to be proud of. 

Of all these lessons, the one that keeps playing over in my head is this:  Whatever is happening around us, whatever the distractions, what we can control is what is inside our own boat. Look forward, feel the beat of the drum, hear the calls of the Sweep, breathe, apply the technique, trust the team and always, always focus in.

Become a new PD like me