On the 9th May 2015, a team of staff and volunteers entered the only mixed ability team into the inaugural Lord Mayor’s Appeal Dragon Boat Festival. The day started out terribly, with gallons of rain coming down over night to transform the River Aire into a a white water torrent, unsafe for any small craft to take to, especially with a vicious looking weir at the end of route! The wind howled around Robert’s Park blowing over the food stalls, and leaving the teams standing around in the drizzle, freezing and not looking forward to the day at all!
The events team for the council and the dragon boat company worked their socks off to turn the day around, and starting a mere twenty minutes later than planned, the 22 teams raced on the canal fifty yards up the road and some of the food stalls were able to set up in a more sheltered location, by lunch time, the sun had even started to make an appearance and the wind had died down, and it was time for our team to take to the water for the first time.
What can I say, we were not fast or synchronised! We did not, however, capsize like other teams had done, and we bravely raced against what turned out to be one of the best teams on the day. It was difficult, but we went into the day knowing it would be, to race with a team of sighted, bling and partially sighted people, not to mention the other disabilities on board the boat. But, and this is a big but, everyone did their best, we worked together to get the boat to move the fastest we could, and the time after that losing race till our next slot was taken up with discussing tactics on how e could improve.
The second race came quickly, we were barely dry from the first one! We had new tactics, moving people around the boat to aid communication and synchronisation and louder shouting to help us stay in time but that didn’t dampen the fear as we watched another team capsize right in front of our eyes! Everyone put in every ounce of energy we had left, people were screaming and shouting to keep us in time and I’m sure some voices were lost down that 100 yards of canal, and the race was neck and neck. We crossed the line unsure if we had won or not, cheering the other team they cheered us. The row back to the side seemed to take ages as we waited to find out our time. Had we beaten the other team, had we taken 7 seconds off our first time to get into the final races?
Yes, and no!
Yes, we won, by only 4/10ths of a second, but it was a win, we were over the moon. ”Buzzing” was a word that seemed to come out of everyone’s mouth! But no, we had not improved enough to get in the final races, our day was over.
It was an absolutely brilliant team building day, showing our new organisation off in its best light, people of all abilities working together for a common goal, and best of all…we didn’t capsize!!
The Equality Together Dragon Boat Team
The team in action