THE last time I went for a row on Lake Wendouree it ended badly. I caught a “crab” with an oar, and sent myself and my crew mate face-first into the water.
Did I mention I am a lousy swimmer?
So it was with some trepidation yesterday that I was press-ganged aboard Dragons Abreast Ballarat’s rather sleek-looking dragon boat, the Howard T, with about a dozen schoolgirls and a couple of veterans. What could possibly go wrong?
We were advised a dragon boat was more stable the further the crew sat from the centreline of the boat, and that the key to staying upright was to maintain the correct weight balance.
I looked at the girl to my immediate right, who must have been about a third my weight, and thought, ‘oh dear’.
She looked up at me as if to say ‘you’ll be fine, big fella’.
Our redoubtable crew handled the conditions well and began to motor along at a fair clip. All the while “sweep” Helen Dorning commanded us to maintain our stroke, like a polite galley slave driver on an ancient Greek trireme.
It was hard work.
We made it back to the shore with a greater appreciation of the Dragons Abreast ladies and their supporters, who have had far greater challenges before taking up their oars.
The Ballarat Grammar girls also performed admirably on the water, taking to it like naturals with skill and power.
Who knows? Perhaps this dragon boat business could be their secret weapon in next year’s Head of the Lake rowing regatta?