The fun part about the Stanley Warm-Ups is always the unpredictability of the weather (remember the year with the Red Rainstorm Warning, when the water came rushing down from the Sea School through our marquee?). The forecast said “partly cloudy with some showers later,” and a 20% chance of rain. We were well within these 20%, the wind was unrelenting, and we never got beyond 24 degrees. It was rough! with a standard mixed boat and a small men’s and small ladies’ boat, we managed to stay warm throughout the day through warming up and racing, though. Choppy waters made it challenging, and we were lucky to have steersmen who did not make us collide with other boats or the pier (as others did, apparently). What was different this time was that the Stanley Dragonboat Association provided water from large jugs so athletes could refill their own bottles—no more single-use plastic bottles for teams, a fantastic and really important improvement! They also set up recycling stations for plastic bottles; we even saw a team bringing food in large pots, and carrying a pile of reusable plates to their tent. Team Loreley was super sustainable, bringing their own water bottles, most paddlers bringing their own food in their own containers, and foregoing single-use plastic for the race day (okay, we do need to work on the coffee cups). Nevertheless, there was a good amount of trash on the beach and in the water—post-race should actually be a good time for a beach clean-up.
Our first race was with the mixed boat, though we were only allowed to take 16, rather than 18, paddlers on board. With 1:16:03, we came in first, winning comfortably against Societe Generale, CITIC Dragons, and an HSBC team. The small men’s team was up against some tough competition: the Liechtenstein Princely Navy, the HK Commerce and Industry Association, and the Cathay Dragon Boat Team. We came in fourth, with 1:18:48. The small ladies’ boat scored second in their heat, with 1:29:83, losing by barely two seconds to the Spanish Dragons. Both small boats made it into their respective cup finals, with the men’s boat placing 7th (1:21:16) and the ladies’ boat coming in 6th (1:28:99). These small boats felt really heavy, especially in the choppy waters, but our training paid off even though we didn’t earn any trophies with this placement.
The first place with the mixed boat brought us into the Cup Semi-finals, competing against the Japanese Dragons (who were wearing new shirts—for the Reiwa Era?), the Swiss Dragons, and the Sea Cucumbers. The boat felt good, but the competition was one and a half seconds faster—we came in fourth, with 1:14:37. The rain stopped just in time for our last race, the Silver Cup B Final, and on the gun we powered out of the start and flew down the course in our fastest time of the day. The boat felt fantastic, we were neck and neck with Los Chiles the whole way, and crossed the line together in 1st and 2nd, but not knowing who had taken the lead: we came in 0.04 seconds within each other, with us being a tiny bit behind them, though with this minimal difference, who really knows? 1:12:23 was our time, 1:12:19 theirs. This should keep our friendly rivalry going for some time, and the trophy gets a special place.
Of course we had some awesome celebration at the beach afterwards, and celebrate we did! With beer as usual, and with our traditional newbie initiation ritual; we also renewed the experienced paddlers’ spiritual commitment to Team Loreley. And the festivities continued at Smugglers’ Inn, despite the rain, and might have moved on to more central locations afterwards, but who remembers?…