Few will argue that careful preparation is the cornerstone of any good paddling performance. Physical preparation may be paramount, but it is the psychological element that truly gives the athlete a winning edge. And outrigging is no exception. It requires a true warrior’s steely resolve and determination. It was therefore fitting that on the Friday night before the start of Port Stephens regatta, the young local lads went out of their way to put on numerous displays good old fashioned bare-knuckled biffo for the benefit of visiting competitors at the Country Club Hotel. The glorious sight of flailing fists, the sound of muffled expletives and the lingering aroma of rum coke really went a long way to imbue all the outriggers present with that sense of mongrel that would be needed to excel in the days of paddling to follow. So, before anything else, I would like to thank and salute the young local lads for the timeliness and thoughtfulness of their inspired performance. As to the weekend’s paddling itself, I will briefly say this. Despite what the enthusiasts might say, I am not so sure that outrigging is up there as a spectator sport. The canoes depart for the horizon in an even line. They disappear out of sight and reappear hours later. We can take some certainty in the fact that any paddler wearing a Pacific Dragons race top crosses the finish line with nothing left to give. They are a bare husk of the paddler that started the race hours before. The fact that they gave their all, followed their training, and made their changes is known to them and their crew alone.

And so to the non-paddling moments:

Billy keeps his brown sugar in a jar. His Caprioskas are a credit to him.

Sandy hommus is better than no hommus at all (for some).

How anyone can sleep face down in the sand is beyond me, even after a race.

It can be reported that Pacific Dragon tradition was followed. Those at the after-race drinks on the beach who accidentally made the “paddling motion”, and those tricked into making the “paddling motion” (suckers) all made good on their obligations.

It was good to see new members whooping up their so-called “win” and dancing the victory jig. Spending their winnings like sailors on the last night of shore leave. A cynic might call it rampant triumphalism. The sight of the unbridled joy that comes with wearing something heavy around your neck must remind even the most seasoned old salts in the club why they love this sport so much and continue year after year. Thanks therefore go to the more highly credentialed Mixed 35km Team, with their more accomplished 3rd place, for graciously looking the other way and letting the Open (but kinda mixed) 20km Team have their brief moment in the sun.

– SY