Our mission if we chose to accept it was to battle the M25 at an unsightly time in the morning and rock out with our most powerful paddling at Albert Docks.
We chose to accept….
It was time to blow the cobwebs off the race boat and get that bad boy back on the water for some serious racing action. After months of body claustrophobia with millions of layers and nearly losing finger tips in the icy Thames we were all finally greeted by that big yellow thing in the sky, and more importantly it was giving off some heat too! (This pleased me greatly).
First things first, team Henley needed to establish base camp for the day…out came the chairs, the vast array of food (jelly babies appeared to be a popular tipple) and even the sun cream. Next we faced the challenge of unloading the boat without ending up waist high in water on the incredible sinking pontoon. Needless to say we survived that meticulous operation with no more than wet ankles. There was just enough time to snuggle our bottoms on our chairs and engage in a bit of pre race banter and a cup of tea whilst soaking up those rays.
Off we jogged, strolled or sprinted to our first 200m heat alongside Kingston Royals, Notts Anaconda and Raging Camden. We knew Kingston would be a hard one to beat but the aim was to fly off the start and keep battling to at least finish as one of the fastest runners up. With a time of 52.24 seconds team Henley went on to the reps. With such a quick turn around we became well accustomed to warming up, paddle, warming down, warming up, paddle….you get the gist. However, in true Henley style there was always something to keep us entertained. Firstly Malcolm insisting on getting the bod out at every opportunity, personally my eyes couldn’t take it, well that was until Jeni gave it a good jelly belly wiggle during one of our team talks. Secondly Julia demonstrating some very interesting warm up moves, there was some talk of it resembling a Mr whippy…..I’ll leave the rest of that for the imagination !
Ok, back to racing because that was what we were there to do. Unfortunately we ended up in the tail race fighting for 9-12 th place and fought off Secklow and Bulls to take 10th place overall for the 200’s. With the 500’s to look forward to we were all treated to a spot of lunch and Phil T could finally get back to nibbling on his muffin back at camp, whilst the rest of us basked in the sun.
Refreshed and refuelled and possibly a little pink we trotted back down the course to crack on with the 500m races. Once again we ended up being seeded with Kingston and also took on the Bulls and Camden. We got off to a great start and quickly got into a steady pace ending up in 2nd place behind Kingston. So onto the reps we went and came out as the fastest rep winner taking us into the semis. We fought hard but unfortunately couldn’t crack Kingston or Amathus. Henley went back for one last stab at the 500’s in the tail race and we finished the day in 12th overall.
The men breathed a sigh of relief and sat down to enjoy the final racing action and the women, clearly the tougher sex jumped back on board the boat teaming up with Secklow to attack one last 200 metre race. So there you have it onwards and upwards we shall go…let’s get those fighting faces on, bust a gut on the river in training and go kick some dragonboat arse at the next event!
Riding high on the crest of a wave from our success at London Henley Dragons were full of confidence. The next BDA league event took us to Nottingham. A day of competition lay ahead on a stretch of the River Trent in the heart of the city.
An eventful first race of the season with high winds, big waves and the cancellation of the 500s gave us more time to celebrate the hard work of the Henley members representing Great Britain at the world championships in Tampa Bay, Florida. We also said good bye to last year's captain who will be paddling (and working) in Australia for a few years.