This year's crew that went to Long Beach included Corina, Terry, Heather, Sandy, Rosana, Donna, Missy, Miki, Laurie, Kit, Martha, Margaret, Burt and me. A good time was had by all! Burt is a master at the tiller and coaching. With him at the helm, we were confident we had the best shot at winning. At the coaches meeting we were told, "A steersperson can't win a race, but they sure can lose it!" we are so lucky to have Burt because we know he will never lose the race for us! He is also so dedicated to us - always scouting for things to look for to improve us as a team.
We all arrived safely without too much traffic - though it was southern California, so enough traffic was had by all as well - especially on the way home. We warmed up practicing our start, body and finish of the race. We had an old Champion with short foot pegs, but we all made the best of it. We took notes on how we needed to seat the boats for the next day.
Our first race of the day was our women's division. Long Beach allows only 18 paddlers in the boat. We had Burt as our steersperson. We needed a drummer and 18 paddlers. We brought 14 including Burt - so down to 13. Miki was going to sit at the drum - now we are down to 12 paddlers. Burt and I scoured the grounds for 6 extra paddlers. We had Jamie from Paddle Fusion, Katie from Southern Heat, our very own Connie and Kathy (coaches from our paddle clinic) and Dodie from NAC. If you did the math right, you'd guess that only equalled 17 - and that's what we went with. It was before 10:00 AM, so no actual drumming was permitted. However, Miki was the most awesome air drummer there ever was! And amazingly, she sounded just like Burt when in that drummer seat - she even threw her voice so it sounded like it was coming from the back of the boat. We did well enough in that heat to get into the Women's Final D division, which was on Sunday.
Next were the two survivor divisions - BCS and AFC. We combined with NAC - our southern sisters (southern CA - not southern US). We decided that we would seat the boat for the BCS and NAC would seat the boat for the AFC (All Female Cancer). BCS Missy joined me in the pacer seat. Burt steered. Denise from NAC called.
In Long Beach, there are cages that hold the dragon head in place for the start. When the race starts, a release of air can be heard. So we are sitting ready, we are at attention, we are buried, we are ready and the air is released and we are off like a shot. After about 20 strokes, we never saw our competition. We won by a boat's length. That felt good. Then we did it again in the AFC division. This time NAC had the front of the boat, and we took the back half. Rosana was behind me reminding me I wasn't pacing with her ever so compassionate counting - one, two, one, two. Donna St. Jean Conti was the pace I could see - on every stroke, so pounded the water inspiring more from every one of us. We repeated winning by a boat length in the BCS final - and we took our first gold. Wow! We felt good - visions of croissants and Eiffel towers were dancing in our minds.
Now it's the AFC finals. We have no reason to believe it's not going to play out the same way as the previous 3 races of the survivor divisions played out. Again, we are sitting ready, at attention, blades buried, head in the cage - air and we're off. Now remember - we are in the back of the boat. After 20 strokes, I'm expecting nothing in my peripheral vision. But not so - there was a dragon head - and it wasn't falling back. What was happening? Rosana gave her "come on, horseys" Burt was calling his power tens, Donna St. Jean Conti was pounding and burying and inspiring the boat, Denise was reminding us to press - and press we did. We paddled as if there were actual gold at the finish line - and there was, and we got it. Just by half a boat length this time - I forgot I was in seat 7, so I thought we were in jeopardy of losing - but I was wrong. It was a fantastic race - We all agreed that racing in a tighter field brought its own excitement.
Which was good because now it's Sunday - but first, let me tell you about dinner. Sandy Mitchell organized the team dinner. She selected Walt's Wharf - highly recommended if ever in or around Seal Beach - it was a seafood and fowl delight. Everyone was fat and happy - we shared good food, good company, and good cheer.
But not too good of cheer because we now had our final race of the day - our Women's final. We so badly wanted to win a medal to round out the festival. In looking at the times, we knew we had a very good chance in taking the bronze. We rounded up our five loaners and we were fortunate enough to find a 6th, so we were able to go out with a full boat. From the very start, we were in a tight pack - one boat edged out in front of the pack but the other 5 or 6 stayed close together. We paddled our hearts out - we left nothing on the water but by 1/10th of a second we took 4th place. It's a good thing we paddled our hearts out other wise they would have been broken. Instead we felt invigorated because we ran a great race. Burt & I believe if we had a full boat of our own team, we would have had a bronze.
San Diego is our next festival. We are hoping to get a full boat, so we can race one last time for the season, so stay tuned!