Written by Becca Gallagher
One of the most enjoyable events on the UAE Dragon Boat circuit, Shangri-La festival 2015 held in Abu Dhabi promised to be a good weekend. The location was spectacular as the teams all found shade on the Shangri-La Beach overlooking the fabulous Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque. Such a beautiful building and so bright against the sky. This year my children asked if it is the same size as the Taj Mahal. It may be of a different size, but I cannot imagine that the Taj Mahal is any less magnificent.
We arrived early to set up our team base and as the girls arrive for the Barracuda team the excitement and trepidation rose for the races which would follow later in the day. We are a team of 25 women who compete in the UAE within all classes, women and mixed premier. Most events have the format of a long race, 2 or 3km, and then a mix of 500metres and 200metres. All the distances have mixed teams with upto 20 people in a boat racing, and also the shorter distances have women only categories. We wanted to win the women’s races. That is no easy feat, the prizes are cosseted and the competition is fierce!
Our first race the 2km, has a rolling start, so the excitement of the ‘ready stead go’ is replaced by a determination to not let the male dominated teams pass us! Our coach always starts these races by saying that it is a good chance to warm up well! I love that sentiment, because it’s true, but not one of the team is warming up, we are competing and we are certainly hoping to place high enough against the mixed teams to be proud of our achievements. This year we have 4 new team members who had never raced before. It was a great race for them to learn on, we were challenged by a mixed team from behind, but the team determination really kicked in as we could hear the people cheering on the beach, we crossed the finish line with a very respectable result.
Between races there were heats and team briefings, but it is all too easy to enjoy yourself as the carnival atmosphere is all around, music playing and constant racing. The atmosphere was electric and the teams all determined. The heats for the 500 and 200 meters took place and we succeeded into the final of both distances. Our new team members were excellent and although the races are 3 and 1 minute respectively the energy exerted leaves us all feeling charged, and ready to take on the finals. That is of course, after a little sit down and some refuelling!
The finals arrive, a healthy tension existed in the boat, we were all ready to deliver everything we had learnt and trained for over the last few months. The crowd and our families were on the beach, supporting and cheering for us. We prepared for the starters signal, blaaaaaaaaa and we go! We race with an accelerating pace at the beginning, long strong stokes all in unison and all deep into the water, once we have the boat up and gliding along the water we can slow the pace down slightly and concentrate on pulling the water hard so we glide smoothly and at speed through the water. As the finish approaches we all know that the result will be very close, the noise is deafening and above all the commotion we can hear the calls of our coach who is willing us to keep going and pull ahead. The final ‘attack’ call is made and we hurtled towards the finish, one close competitor to our left and one to our right. As we crossed the line and looked around to see who had won, we can see the Drakinas team celebrating. They won, we are exhausted and all in 1.03minutes!
Although it was hugely disappointing to succumb, the Drakinas team won the race, we didn’t give it away, we couldn’t have had a better race on that day, and they were better. So well done to the Drakinas team, but it will be a different day next time… paddles up.
To inquire more about the Barracudas Team and Dragon Boating in Dubai contact Nicki Berry firstname.lastname@example.org