Dragon Boat Training – 5/20/2023

I was the first person to register for the MR340 this year. I was signed up as a solo paddler. However, I got invited to join a dragon boat that thought they could break the record in that division. I’ve been wanting to go faster and the idea of setting a record was too tempting to pass up. I updated my registration and joined the dragon boat.

We set up a training run in the boat to go from Washington, MO to Blanchette ramp in St. Charles, MO. This would be approximately 40 miles of paddling. Just what we needed to evaluate the team and get our training started if we were going to be successful.

We had 8 people signed up to paddle, and only 6 of those were team members for the race. Just the same, we needed to start training. The boat was missing its foot controlled rudder, so this was going to be a bit more challenging than originally expected. The team captain, Perry was there and had organized the run.

As we lined up to paddle, we started talking about who would steer the boat. Nobody was stepping up. Traditionally the big (read heavy) people go in the middle and provide more forward thrust and a small (light weight) person goes in the back to steer. On this trip the lightest person was close to 200 lbs and I was on the heavy end of the scale of paddlers. However, I was volunteered to steer as nobody else was confident in that activity.

I accepted my role and off we went. I steered mostly by switching sides and performing draw strokes. I had to pay very close attention to where we were going as it takes 3 – 10 paddle strokes to change direction. If we start wondering off course, it takes a bit to get back the correct direction while I have 7 people wondering what is going on in the back of the boat.

When we got to Klondike, about half way, we stopped at the ramp for a quick break.

Things were going okay. We had at least 2 times during this 20 mile stretch where I was sure we would tip over but didn’t. My strength was fading without a rudder. As we got back in for the final stretch, I performed more ruddering activities with my paddle to steer. This has a noticeable drag on the boat slowing us down. I didn’t like it, but it was what I had available to contribute.

Here is a quick on the water shot of the team paddling to the I-70 bridge in St. Charles.

Ultimately we made it, but at a speed that I was sure would not get us any records. We lined up for some celebratory spirits.

We had a great lunch and talked some of our paddle and life before going our separate ways. It was a good first paddle, but we would need many more to come close to our goals.

Hogan Haake