Sunday 9th October, 2016

7:30 am: The water was glassy on the morning of my first Regatta. Not for long, I thought. The Pacific Dragons will soon be powering through!

4:00 pm: The day had certainly been a good one, but as the PD chicks paddled out to the starting blocks for the women’s final I knew this would be the race to remember. I had thought the first race, my first ever dragon boat race, had been fantastic, but as the day progressed I realised just how much better we could be. With each heat we became stronger as a team, and every time, even though we paddled the same course, there was so much to learn.

We were at the Sydney International Regatta Centre in Penrith where the 2000 Olympics took place, and as the dragon boat slotted into its position I felt like a professional paddler, even though I only became a PD in July this year. We had the drummer up front, and the dragon head and tail which are attached to the boats on race days.

The most important things to remember when dragon boating, especially in a race when adrenaline often takes over technique, is to keep in time with your team mates and to pull your blade through the water with as much strength as possible. I took a deep breath, preparing myself for the 500 metres of craziness we were about to experience.

The call is made and we’re off with our 30-stroke start! 1! 2! 3! 4! 5! We focus only within our own boat, keeping in time with the drummer. The fantastic sweep calls a refocus at the halfway mark, and we all put even more power into our strokes. Then comes the lift! We’re nearly at the end! The rating comes up and we soar over the line in a solid third place, a great result so early in the season. To make things even better for the PDs, the men’s crew come third in their final too.

It was such a fantastic day, we all got a shiny badge and the team even let me keep the trophy! Dragon Boating has been a great sport for me as it is one I can do while my ACL recovers from a reconstruction. I’m using it for my Gold Duke of Edinburgh award as well. It is such an inclusive sport – people of all ages and athletic abilities find great enjoyment from paddling, and this is what I like best about it all.


Renee Langenheim