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Salem Dragon Boat Race 2011

Sunday, June 26, 2011
I managed to make it to Salem for the 2011 World Beat DragonBoat Races. This was my second "real" race after the competing in Olympia last month.

The race was set up so that there would be two preliminary races to determine the division to compete in, a semi-final within the division, then the division finals to determine standings. Our first race was against the team Paddles of Fury. Down on the water, we paddled fast and we paddled hard, but Paddles of Fury is a good team and, in that race, they posted the second fastest time seen so far that day. We, Shibumi, did not post the first fastest time, and, in a two-boat race, came in second, over 15 seconds behind (for a time of about 2:23 or so).

The Team. I'm on the right in the blue.  Thanks to the Statesman-Journal for this image.

Our second race was against the Castaways, another team from Portland. They're generally quite close in skill and we frequently race them in practice. They're the team we cheer for when we're not racing them, but we ALL wanted to beat them. At the starting line, we took off. It was quite close for a while; everyone on my team was focused and we paddled even harder than before. And, while we shaved almost 4 seconds off our time, Castaways was just a few seconds faster and beat us, leaving us coming in second again. The team energy was sucked away, as we all contemplated a second defeat.

This is where the race organization fell apart. Comparing the times, we were still one of the faster teams on the water; out of 18 or so, we were faster than at least 10 of them. But we'd raced against two teams that were even faster, leaving us with two second-place finishes and relegating us to the third division (of three.)

So we lined up for our semi-final race against Team Lightning, part of the Oregon Paralyzed Veterans of America Dragon Slayers. They gave it an honest shot, but we shouldn't have been in that division. We walked away from them in that race, paddling as a team with amazing intensity and getting a shot of energy that only comes from a solid win.


At this point, I had to leave the race. We had more paddlers than we had seats on the boat, so each race a few paddlers had to sit out. A friend of mine needed a ride to the Portland Airport, so we both volunteered to sit out the final race, allowing the rest of our team to compete. The final race was close, both in time and in physical proximity. Our tiller and their tiller were unwilling to give up a line and possibly slow down, so the boats ended up right next to each other, with our paddles and their paddles hitting each other as we would dig into the water, trying to pull away. The times were incredibly close, but Shibumi landed first place in our division!

Then came the real disappointment. We were told that, despite coming in first in our division, there would be no medals for us. We walked away, angry. But in the end, we found out it was a miscommunication and we were, in fact, going to get our gold medals. The results of the race can be seen in the Salem Statesman-Journal.

Our hard-won gold medal

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