A group of experienced and novice paddlers has clinched gold at an iconic boating festival.
The Random Jaffa’s (RJs) secured their first ever victory at the Wellington Dragon Boat Festival on March 6. In the open mixed final, they beat Wairarapa Dragon Boat Club in the 320m race by less than a second with an impressive time of 1 minute, 16.85 seconds.
Formed for the 2009/2010 dragon boat season, member Tim Grimley, who lives in Beachlands, told the Times the team picked up their name from being the “somewhat motley crew of leftover Aucklanders when the other teams were formed”.
Grimley joined the RJs the following year.
“I went to one of Auckland Dragon Boat Association’s ‘Give it a Go!’ days and have been hooked on paddling ever since,” he says.
Modern-day dragon boating is increasing in popularity. According to legend, Qu Yuan, a great warrior poet, committed suicide by drowning in the river Mi Lo, in China.
According to the NZ Dragon Boat Association (NZDBA), when news of his drowning hit the shores, boats were launched by local fishermen in a race to recover his body.
And dragon boat racing was born.
Now more than 50 million paddlers participate annually in competitions globally. Passionate paddler Grimley says the activity is a fantastic workout while being low impact.
“It’s not uncommon for people to keep going into their 70s and beyond.”
The RJs recent win is only their second regatta win in 13 seasons.
“We aren’t traditionally one of the top teams, but we have an amazing spirit which has seen us send boats to compete in tournaments all over New Zealand, Asia and even Hawaii,” Grimley says.
“Because we’re not frequently podium-toppers, winning down in Wellington was incredibly special, particularly for those of us who have been together for such a long time in the team.
“Our captain, Phil Wakelin, has been in the position since the beginning and he makes it like a big family, so it was extra special for us all to give something back to him too.
“The only downside was the medals and trophy were unable to be handed out on the day due to Covid-19 restrictions, but apparently they are at the engravers now and will be winging their way up to Auckland soon.”
The water in Wellington was a touch “lumpy” which added to the drama, Grimley says.
“Dragon boats are ideally suited to much flatter conditions!”