Falls Creek Regatta aka Best Weekend Ever

When I lived back in Canberra, there was always one regatta that I loved the most – That was the Flowing Festival regatta held in Jindabyne, New South Wales. It was a ski town in the mountains with the most pristine water to paddle in, and the atmosphere was amazing too; markets and carnival rides all lined up along the shoreline, with music blaring from the start line and a great festival feel about it. Each of the dragon heads used on the boats had different colours and different faces – some with jewels, some with ribbons, and the boats were nicknamed “bathtubs” as they were so old, and as a drummer I had to sit on the nose of the boat without a chair. It was the best weekend away with my team mates, and it was my absolute favourite regatta.

Moving to Melbourne I knew I’d miss that regatta the most, but I definitely still travel around a lot with the team. However I was super excited when The Falls Creek regatta was announced because it was incredibly similar to Jindabyne. Falls Creek, a little ski town, up in the mountains, with pristine waters and a good 5 hour drive away from Melbourne requiring an overnight stay – meaning a great opportunity to bond with my coach and team mates.

My boyfriend, Reece, and I drove down to Falls Creek on Friday night after work, dodging wombats, and winding around the mountain roads after our GPS took us on a delightful detour out to Sunbury. Luckily, we were both amused by this and laughed about how we a) ended up in Sunbury, b) ended up on a rollercoaster of a country road (literally. Steepest descent ever!) and c) trekked along dirt roads before d) driving down the shadiest looking road ever and finding our accommodation at Falls Creek around 11pm.

Reece and I bunked down with in the boys cabin with Darren, Tim, Armin and John and we were delighted by the abundance of hot tubs and saunas within our accommodation. We set out for the regatta early the next morning and drove down to the race course, which reminded me so much of Jindabyne. That made me so happy! Beautiful mountain scenery, crystal blue water, clear skies …. Yup, being in the mountains was gorgeous enough, let alone being able to paddle my first regatta in such great water.

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Look at this view! And this water! It’s got nothing on the Yarra River!

Yes, you heard right folks …. I just paddled my very first regatta EVER in the 6 years of me doing this sport! I drummed two crews, the opens and the women’s and paddled in the mixed which was action packed.

My first race paddling, I shared with a lovely girl from Yarra River Dragons, Jordie, who had kindly filled in some seats on our team for us. For Jordie and I it was our first regatta paddling, and indeed our first race EVER and what should happen? Another boat runs into the side of us! I’m not even kidding … I’m doing my thang, paddlin’ my little heart out and in my peripheral vision I see this dragon head getting closer to me and I begin to think “Oh they’re gaining on us”, but then this dragon head gets a little bit closer, and then TOO close and before I know it, it’s hit the side of the boat I’m paddling on. Jordie and I have our paddles in the air, Darren (who was steering) was trying to push the other boat away from us, and we could feel the boat do this LURCH which only happens when you’re about to capsize … I remember thinking “That’d be right! My first race paddling and we capsize!” but we all somehow managed to hold on and finish the race in our lane and without any injuries. See? DRAMA. And it wasn’t even a 2km race!

Our opens crew missed out on making the finals, but they had some wicked competition, and the team we took down was only a small one. Yarra River Dragons were again out in force and looking fiiiiiiine on the water. They’re going to be HOT at Nationals this year, I can tell.

Our Women’s crew … Now this was awesome. We called ourselves the Flaming Storm because we were 1/2 boat Melbourne Flames and 1/2 Southern Storm paddlers.  Despite the fact that we had never paddled together before, and indeed never met each other before being put into a boat together,  we raced fast and hard and ended up walking away with a second place. Second to, you guessed it, Yarra River Dragons. So a pretty damn good effort!

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2nd place! Winners are grinners!

Look at that beautiful trophy!  And look at this new group of friends!

So after we wrapped up the regatta it was time for the after party. Y’all like party stories, right? Well, we started off by having a few drinks in the hot tubs and reminiscing on other regattas and Nationals and afterparties. Again, I bunked down with the boys (I had to be the girl that broke up the sausage fest in the hot tub. The “Chickie Buffer” if you please) and after our delightful hot tub and drinks, we got ready for dinner.

We had a team dinner at a little Italian joint up in the mountains which was amazing – I had to try hard not to eat everything everything that wasn’t nailed down. The pizza smelled amazing but I went for pasta instead. After cheers’ing to a great regatta and having some food, we met up with Yarra River Dragons and played some soccer, before moving on to playing some Bocce.

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Playing Bocce with rivals and friends, Yarra River Dragons. What a night!

After chilling out in the evening light, we decided to move back to the accommodation for some more fun. Everyone came down to our bunk, and we decided to crack out some drinks and some cards and have ourselves a Melbourne Flames party!

To start with, I want to say that our coach is a VERY bad influence on me when it comes to drinking vodka (3 shots in a row, Serge! Na Zdorovie!) and secondly I want to say that he is also very good at playing cards. I, on the other hand …. DISMAL. I can’t remember the name of the game we were playing, but the only object of the game was NOT to lose, and you bet your ass I lost ever time lol. We had a great time playing several rounds of this mystery game, which Reece ended up winning every time he played. (that’s how games usually work in our house! Reece wins, I lose!)

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This picture accurately represents what it is like to play this game.

So after our evening wrapped up we all rolled into bed. You really can’t argue with that for an after party … Drinks, hot tubs, games and cards. 10 out of 10: Would recommend.

You can check out some of the photos I took at Falls Creek on the Melbourne Flames Instagram page, and indeed other pictures I take! I am, afterall, part of their social media team!

Next thing coming up? State team trials. Then the Chinese New Year Regatta in Footscray! Two very exciting things coming up. I’ll keep you posted on how everything pans out.

Until then, this little drummer girl has one hell of a hangover to nurse! #weak

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Battle Of The Barwon

ROAD TRIPPPPP!!!!!

I love a good road trip to regattas. Back in Canberra, my favourite regatta was always the Flowing Festival that was held in Jindabyne each year. It’s always great to wake up early (well, that part isn’t great), pick up your mates, jump in the car and roll down the highway wrapped up in conversation about dragonboating which gets you pumped for the day ahead.

Last Sunday’s regatta was in Geelong; an easy 80 mins from Melbourne. I managed to drag my boyfriend along to the regatta, so we picked up Tim and Caitlyn at the boat hub around 7am where we loaded paddles, bags and cake into the car before cruising out of Melbourne and down the freeway. Caitlyn is from Malaysia, so on the way down she was telling us some great stories about the different types of paddling styles and regattas that she races back at her home. It’s great to hear about how this sport is experienced all around the world! Some races, she was saying, are raced without lanes, so it’s basically a free for all. Some big regattas are “scored” where the team that wins the event three times gets to keep the trophy forever, but otherwise they don’t have a points scoring system, and they race against other international teams all the time. It’s funny to think that – I mean, we’re so close to New Zealand and we never race them. In fact, I don’t even know if they have a dragonboat team. I assume they do?

After we arrived we found a comfy place for our team to nest for the day, and got comfy. There were three heats of four boats that were going down the river that day and we were in the last heat. Most teams had only entered one crew, like us, with the exception of Yarra River Dragons (YRDs) who entered in two boats. They ended up sending a 10’s crew down the river and I honest commend them for that because good Lord, that would have been a hell of a slog. 6.5km in a heavy boat with 10 peeps? There’s no way I would have survived!

So we kind of pottered around for most of the morning really. We could see the start and the finish of each races but being a river run, there’s really only so much you can see obviously. I chatted with a few of my team members I didn’t know since I’m still relatively new in the club, took some photos, and stayed snuggled up in my jacket since Geelong put on some windy weather for us. Perhaps my favourite photo of the day is the one I’ll post below – I love the dragonboats when they’re all dressed and ready for racing.

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Mmmm … Delicious shallots.

There’s usually a ceremony before nationals where you “awaken the dragons” before big events, where you dot their eyes (to awaken them from their slumber) and present them offerings – There’s usually fruit baskets and they are presented with shallots which are placed in their mouths. I can’t remember the significance of the shallots which is a shame, because I think they look super cute when they’re painted to look so fierce, then they have a delicate bunch of spring onions sitting in their open mouths. Little cuties.

We jumped in a boat around 11:15am (Lucky boat 3 who still had his shallots in his mouth after two races) and after some friendly banter on the start line with YRD on the start line, we took off. They were staggered starts, with about a minute between each boat and we started third. Our Sweep, Darren, and I rode our crew up and down that river, overtaking one other crew in our heat at around the half way mark and it just made our crew hungry for more. That crew … Goodness – they were on point. If we asked for a lift in power, they lifted. If we asked for longer strokes, they went longer. They were responsive, they maintained their pace, and they worked together so bloody well that I couldn’t have been more proud of them. And Darren was equally as stoked too.

Want to know how well they worked? They earned themselves FIRST PLACE. And I was damn proud to be leading them to victory. Second was the 10’s crew from YRD, and third was the other YRD crew, so you can see who out competition is here for the season! But it’s a nice friendly rivalry which is nice. Most of the people on my team and on YRD paddle together on the Australian team, so we’re all friends and there’s some great sportsmanship between the two, and indeed all of the teams.

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One of our paddlers, John, and our captain for the day, Jacquie, holding our trophy!

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The times for all of the boats that competed

How else do you reward your paddlers? FOOD. Lunch at the Little Creatures Brewery in Geelong (hey, it’s not technically Nationals training season just yet!). Piling back into the car, we went and grabbed a beer/cider, and some delicious food with our team mates and some of the other teams as a reward for our hard work before cruising back down the freeway back to cloudy ole Melbourne.

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Hearty post regatta meals. Awwwww yiss!

So we’re back to training again tonight and Melbourne’s put on fabulous weather for us (#Sarcasm #Rain) so that’s going to be super amounts of fun! Our next regatta is actually in Horsham (ROAD TRIPPPPPPP!!!!) but I won’t be attending that one because I bought tickets to a Halloween bash and Halloween is actually my favourite shindig of the year (go figure – I loathe scary movies), but the one after that is in Ballarat which falls a couple of days before my birthday so I have a feeling that’s going to be all kinds of fun. My folks are coming down for that one so you can probably expect some crazy photos and some mischief from that regatta. Whenever Mama and Papa K come to regattas, they’re always cheering from the sidelines! Even when they came to they were dressed up in their matching clothes they bought from Nationals held in Melbourne a few years back, God love them.

How do you thank your folks for following you around the world supporting you? I think if I make the Australian team this year I’ll buy a paddle, and an extra shirt and frame it and give it to them for their wall. It’s not much, but it’s something ….

Okies. Enough rambling! Hope you enjoyed the pics! I’ve got a hankering for some shallots 😉

Until next time ….

Rach x