Lamma Island, Hong Kong – May 7, 2017
With a 6:45am start in DB, there were some bleary eyes as we boarded the junk for our trip over to Lamma Island for this year’s Lamma 500. Sharing the junk with the German Team (a theme that was to continue throughout the day in the Dragon Boats too!), the atmosphere was a lively one with a touch of the nerves as we cruised over the waters in the fresh Hong Kong morning and made final preparations for the day ahead.
The team disembarked at the Yung Shue Wan pier before splintering and disappearing into the winding streets with the odd blue of a LBC team member being spotted through clouds of steam from the dim sum restaurants or piles of produce that line the narrow streets of the village. Leaving the morning sights and sounds of the waking community behind us we encountered, going in the opposite direction, a number of youngsters with alcoholic drinks in their hands stumbling towards the ferry. As I later found out they had been part of an all-night party on the island and as we popped out at Power Station Beach remembered a time when we were up this early in the morning because we hadn’t gone to sleep yet and not because we were going paddling!!!. Like the well oiled machine that the LBC DB team is – chairs were erected, ropes and paddles stowed, sun cream’s lathered, etc while Hans settled down for the first of many his power naps.
First up the Mixed 500m heat, Maaike and Kerstin leading the stoke from the front row, we made our way to the start. After a steady build and chug we made finished up second behind RHKYC and well clear of the third placed Fair Dinkum. Cobwebs and nerves were banished and it looked like we had picked up where we left off in DWB, with a promising base to build on.
Next up was the Women’s turn where we welcomed 4 ladies from the GSIS team to our squad for the day as well 3 ladies from the German Team. Considering this was the first time 7 of the 20 had paddled together, timing was good down the course and they finished credible 2 nd behind Smugz Ladies.
The Men then began their search for some silverware in a slightly smaller field than normal with a few of the Open teams, including VRC, participating in a Fisherman’s race elsewhere in Hong Kong. The Men too welcomed in 4 Germans, most of whom had paddled with us in DWB, so there was already an understanding of team tactics and rating. After a solid race and a third place behind RHKYC Men and HKUST DB, the Men looked really settled and ready for round 2 and the finals.
The draw was kind to the Mixed team, who did not come up against any of the favoured teams in the second round but still no-one hands it to you on a platter and you have to go out there and earn it. After a fairly even first 300m and Harald’s words of ‘Trust the Chug’ ringing in our ears, we pulled away to win the heat relatively comfortably and await the various permutations unfolding in other heats to find out which final we would take part in later in the day.
The women put up another solid performance to get into third place in their second heat before the Men made their way down to the start alongside RHKYC, Smugz and JP Morgan. In my few years of Dragon Boating, good races don’t some around often enough, but this turned out to be one of my favourites. The start flag dropped and we powered out of the blocks in lane 1 with the sea wall on our left to find ourselves perhaps a half a boat length or more behind RHKYC in first place with Smugz neck and neck with us. When the stokes do such a great job with the rating and the team find the groove, the chug can be a thing of beauty. You know the race is going well when you feel stronger and stronger as you go down the course and are able to just keep on increasing power. With Smugz pushing us all the way we found ourselves chugging down the YC, no easy feat as you may know, and confidence grew and grew. Duncan called a power with hundred to go and the accelerator was calmly applied and we lurched for the line to finish less than a second behind RHKYC in 02:09:54.
Buoyed by all of our performances we received the draws for the finals to find our Women had made the Plate Final with the Mixed and Open both making it into the Cup Finals.
There is not much respite from the racing at Lamma, so after a short lunch break, all three teams readied themselves for the 1,000m, a race that LBC have historically done really well in. First up was the Mixed who managed a credible 12th out of 28 teams followed by the Men who finished an agonizing 4th after a decent race and then finished off by the women as they came in 5th.
A short rest while we watched team Mushu do a little photo shoot in front of us on the beach ahead of the main finals of the day. For fear of embarrassing them we decided as a team to keep our shirts on and readied ourselves for the main event and the opportunity to come home with some silverware.
So to race 37, the Women’s Plate final, another close affair with AWA Women and Lamma Ladies out in front with our Women left to fight it out for third with our local friends/rivals, the Sea Cucumbers of Discovery Bay. After the Cukes got the better of us in DWB in the last 100m, our ladies managed to hold on by the narrowest of margins to beat them into 3 rd place by 18/100ths of a second. Close but we will take it and the women had got their hands on a cup and laid down a marker for the Men and Mixed Team.
The Men’s lined up for their final hoping to recreate the feeling of earlier in the day by putting in an even better performance with belief being sky high that we could punch above our weight and get a result. The race start was not overly good and we found ourselves half way down the course fighting for 3 rd place with Smugz as RHKYC and Liechtenstein surged ahead in the battle for 1 st and 2 nd . We chugged our way down the course very comfortably and again had the faith that we could wear down Smugz as we had in DWB and earlier in the day but as it always is with these races, results can turn on the smallest of margins. Perhaps we wanted it too badly, perhaps we lost our cool a little but we could not recreate the surge in the last 100m that we had achieved earlier in the day. Final result RHKYC 1st, Lichtenstein 2nd followed by Smugz in 3 rd and then LBC in 4 th by 34/100ths of a second!!!! A credible result in the Open division that is always of a very high standard.
So to the Mixed Cup final and the last race of the day, we paddled out with confidence the earlier races had given us and the experience to know, get away well and get into the chug early and anything can happen. The race did not go well for LBC, perhaps it was race too far on and exciting and draining day, finishing the course in last place behind Mushu, Stormy’s, RHKYC and Smugz.
Overall I think we would have taken the results we achieved if we had been offered them at the beginning of the day. Although not the best performance of the day in the Cup Final, having the Mixed team finish 5 th out of 33 high class teams was an outstanding achievement, as was the ever improving Men and of course the Ladies who seem to have knack of bringing home some silverware at every event.
Days like this do not just happen, so inevitably there are so many thank you’s that not all can be mentioned here but a special thank you goes to Florian and Uschi from the German Dragons who offered us use of their best Men and Women without question every time we asked. For everyone who carried a bag, joined the team at last minute, collected money, arranged the junk, serviced a paddle, went to the bar or did one of the many things that make days like this possible and so special, the LBC Dragon Boat team management wholeheartedly thanks you.
So as the junk motored across the shipping lane leaving the lights of Pok fu lam behind in the distance, laughter filled the boat as we reminisced about the ‘what-ifs’ and ‘what-could-have-beens’. At this point thoughts turned to the next race in Mui Wo on 21 st May but also to Maaike, who would be leaving LBC and Hong Kong in the following week. Maaike has been a great servant to the club in so many ways and a special thanks for her tireless efforts of taking on the role of stroke for the Women’s and Mixed Team this year. As is the nature of a club and a team, one door closes and another opens, now is the opportunity for someone else to step up and lead from the front!!!