9th Dragon Boat Challenge
Organised by the Rotary Clubs of Huddersfield and Wakefield Chantry.
8.30am Saturday 8th July and it was the most perfect morning at Pugneys Country Park Lake, Wakefield. Even the ducks took the opportunity to sleep for an extra hour in the warmth and peace of the early morning sun. Not far away was a neatly dressed lady crouched over a shiny metal dust pan. She smiled and reached out to greet me with a hand covered by a blue disposable glove. “Don’t worry”, she said reassuringly, “I’m picking up duck poo with my other hand!”
I shook the outstretched hand somewhat reluctantly and away she went looking for the next ‘object’! Such was the care and careful planning that will go unnoticed by most people; but not by the Rotary Clubs of Huddersfield and Wakefield Chantry.
For over nine and a half hours, perhaps as many as 5-6000 people either took part or relaxed and enjoyed what must be one of Wakefield’s greatest annual events. Every detail was organised by dedicated Rotary volunteers with seemingly boundless energy.
There cannot be a more proud District Governor anywhere in RIBI and dare I say, RI, than I was on that particular day. I asked if I could have a go at paddling in a Dragon Boat. Sure enough, having paid my way, there I was for the first time ever, proud to be one of 17 – 16 paddlers and a time keeping drummer, making up the numbers in the Wakefield Chantry boat; The Chantry Challenger. I think we ended up 10th out of 39 boats taking part in the 3 heat race.
It is often said that “it isn’t necessarily winning that matters , it’s the taking part!” I’m not quite sure about that, we took it seriously and the joy of winning the first heat against 2 other boats really lifted our spirits and it was such a joy to be part of it and the team. As the day went by our determination to do better increased at almost the same rate as the sunburn on those unsuspecting spectators. Such was the euphoria at the end of one heat, the winning team’s boat turned over and they were disqualified for their efforts – I wonder how many of those rowers in the water were shouting “it’s the taking part that counts!”?
Late in the day I took the opportunity to walk around the lakeside, where every team had set up a tent (team HQ), though not enough shelter to keep everyone from the unrelenting heat of the day. There were dry land rowing rehearsals, tombola stalls and make shift charity shops all mixed up with team BBQ’s. The noise and laughter often drowned out the PA system relaying the day’s events on the lake.
The Mayors of Kirklees and of Wakefield were in attendance, perhaps looking slightly out of place in formal attire and wearing chains of office in and amongst the semi clad crowd. it was nice to see them enjoying an ice cream and making use of the miniature railway to take in a wonderful community based spectacle.
The day culminated in medals and congratulations all round, non more-deserved than to the loyal and dedicated members that make up the Rotary Clubs of Huddersfield and Wakefield Chantry. Well done to everyone concerned.