“As a relative newcomer to Hong Kong I had yet to make many friends so when one of my work colleagues asked me if I was interested in joining him on the Loreley Dragon Boat team I jumped at the chance. I was a bit concerned about the physical effort involved as I was out of shape following 6 months more or less continuous drinking after my arrival in Hong Kong.
“Don’t worry” I was assured “My good friend Marcus is captain and he doesn’t take it too seriously. It’ll just be a bit of splashing about in the water then down the Boathouse for a beer session.” It sounded like just my kind of “exercise”.
Unbeknownst to Simon though Marcus had spent the 10 months or so since the end of the previous dragon boat season in the gym. Even more surprisingly he had cut down drastically on beer consumption. As a result the Marcus I met was 20kg lighter than the version Simon had last seen. Add in that this was to be his last year in Hong Kong and he was determined to go out with a bang.
The training was pure torture. Fresh from a British winter the summer heat and humidity in HK was bad enough. Add in a guy in the best condition of his life taking the training and determined to get us to match him and it was almost unbearable.
Marcus ran a tight ship – a very tight ship. Talking was banned. Opinions were to be kept to yourself. You were there for one reason – to paddle when told. So we would paddle – further and faster than I thought possible. Then we would stop for some water. In a one hour session a 1.5 litre bottle was not enough, I needed two.
When you had the water you stayed quiet. As soon as someone spoke the cry would come from the front “If you’re fit enough to talk you are fight enough to paddle so let’s go”. We soon learned.
After training we did indeed repair to the Boathouse and attendance was very good. Even in those days the boathouse very kindly provided us with a couple of pitchers and some food. However in a team of largely German men 2 pitchers was never more than a starting point and soon another would follow and another and so on until there were only a few left and the clock was striking 10 at least.
The good news was of course if it was Saturday we had it all to do again on Sunday. Even worse if it was Sunday there was to be no long lie in bed and another working week was about to commence with a hangover.
At that time there was no mixed competition at Stanley. I am sure some of the more recent participants can’t imagine this but it was not until 2005 the Mixed category was introduced to Stanley. As a result as a mixed team (we had 5 or 6 ladies in our midst) we entered the Expat Men’s Class B category. In an effort to make us more competitive a new Loreley tradition was started – no booze at the party for the team until after the final race.
As it was relatively new it would be fair to say it wasn’t 100% observed but it was close and mostly the guys limited themselves to a couple of shandies. A far cry from the days when the team would be struggling to keep the boat balanced in the final race. In the final we finished a very commendable third place and were desperately close to getting second. We saw off more than a few boats that had all male crews.
Marcus was happy with this and so a typical Loreley after race party took place. The beer that had been hidden away from the guests was brought out for the team. Upon completion of this the team headed down to the Boathouse to enjoy the party in the streets of Stanley.”