Bleary-eyed at 6:30am on a Sunday morning, the Flying Komodos began to build their force on the water’s edge of Darling Harbour in what was going to be a very big day of Dragon Boat racing.
The Flying Komodos aka Team Taronga featuring 10 male and 10 female staff members plus two reserves, had been training hard alongside the Sydney Fish Markets at Pyrmont thanks to the expert assistance of the FFB Dragon Boat Club. A Special mention has to go to FFB’s Jenny, Anthony and Brian who moulded us into the best dragon boat team we could be in what was a very short training program.
From all areas of Taronga, staff came together to learn paddling technique, timing and a start formula sure to contend with any other competitors in the corporate and community race day at Cockle Bay, Darling Harbour. We were paddling to support the Komodo Dragon and the Taronga Foundation which is the official charity partner of the City of Sydney’s Chinese New Year Festival.
Our first race, with very little warm up, highlighted that under the pressure of racing conditions our timing was off in what we later learnt was called the ‘caterpillar’, where a gentle ripple of paddles moving up and down travelled from the front to the back of the boat. The key to dragon boat racing is a team who are perfectly in time in order to push the, pencil thin, 200kg + boat forward. We now knew that this needed to be streamlined for our remaining races so an alternative start was devised. Saying this we still placed third in lane 6 which is one of the slower lanes overall.
In Race Two we competed against some very strong teams which had months of training and a very competitive edge. We pushed through the 250m race to place fourth overall with the slight mishap of another boat steering into our lane. Thanks to our fabulous sweep Anthony we managed to avoid colliding but this affected our pace. For those not in the know, a ‘sweep’ stands on the back of the boat with a big oar to make sure we travel in a straight line!
Our third and final race for the day was the Sponsors Challenge, known for its rivalry among sponsors of the Chinese New Year Festival and Dragon Boat event. Again, we were placed in lane six on the western side of Cockle Bay. With our start combination streamlined and a team that was in time stroke for stroke, we planed ahead of the other teams, parting the glassy surface on one of Sydney’s rare sunny summer days. Fatigue took a back seat and there was no sign of slowing as the Flying Komodos passed the finish line in a clear first to the ecstatic excitement of all on board and the cheer squad on the quayside.
The day wouldn’t have been possible without the coordination of team captain, Owen, who ensured we didn’t miss a training session or race. He proudly accepted our winning trophy at the presentation ceremony concluding a day that made the Flying Komodos the talk of the regatta.