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Dragon boat racing at Darling Harbour

Our Dragon Boat race (I'm seated, third from back)

It’s not every day that you get to paddle across one of the most beautiful harbours in the world and raise money for breast cancer in the process.

That’s why I volunteered straight away for the 2011 Dragons Abreast Festival as part of the corporate team for NRMA.

Early last Sunday morning, just as revellers from Halloween parties across the city were getting to bed, I arrived at Darling Harbour ready battle it out with 20 corporate teams from Sydney.

The water was still, the sky was breaking to blue and we were pumped and ready for action. Teams and supporters lined the harbourside, dressed head to toe in their matching team colours.

 For those not familiar with Dragon boat racing, here’s a rundown on what the race entailed:

 –          Teams of 20 to each boat –  no more than ten men per team

–          Race runs from Pyrmont Bridge towards the inside of Darling Harbour

–          Approximate 90 second stretch (doesn’t sound much does it!)

And that’s pretty much it! We’d had two training sessions prior to the event, which had really kicked into gear the muscles on my back and in my arms. But, the key to Dragon boat racing is the timing. With 20 people per team, and less than a metre separating you from the person in front, one wrong move can result in bashed elbows, grazed knuckles and clashing oars.

Not to mention a bad result in the competition.

Which is exactly what happened to us. The whistle blew, our team set off and…..we didn’t really get anywhere very fast. A time on the first race of one minute 21 seconds was enough for us to finish in 4th place – out of five! We managed to pull this back on the second race to a more respectable one minute 17 seconds. But by the third race we knew we didn’t have a hope of making the finals and a disastrous finish of last place and one minute 26 seconds saw us all collapsing in laughter towards the finish line.

We were pretty bad. We didn’t win. But I loved it.

And what a great way to raise money for charity.

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