On Sunday 29 July the much-awaited Dragon Boat festival in aid of the Lord Mayor’s Charities took place. Not, alas, at Chillington Hall, as the very hot and dry weather of the summer had caused the water level on the lake to fall too far – surely the first ever case in English history of “No rain stopped play” – but at very short notice our Firebirds organisers had secured a new venue at Fairlop Waters in Essex.
To add to the ironies, after the long dry spell the weather as we all know broke with a vengeance, and it was against a backdrop of rain and grey clouds that we assembled – more Thunderbirds than Firebirds! But the rain held off for the actual racing, and after the festival had been opened by a traditional Lion Dance, the teams assembled for the serious part of the day.
Our boat was made up of a dozen Firebirds and four supporting Phoenixes, with Juliet Mountevans as our drummer (a rather exposed position and she said it felt very precarious) and the current Lady Mayoress, Samantha Bowman, rowing (though we missed a trick by not having her in the bow seat and so making her “our bowman”!).
And so to the racing – and we actually did rather well. Dragon boat rowing is not as difficult as it looks, and after only a very short practice paddle to get us to the course start, it was into the racing. We won our first heat, and although pipped by a length in the second, we qualified for the final as the fastest loser … where we won the bronze medal! And we also got a trophy for the most stylish boat.
The Lord Mayor was also there and was originally not going to row, but he was “persuaded” to make up the numbers on one of the other boats which was short – and they duly won. So he has a gold medal while his wife only has a bronze – no doubt deeply appropriate etc etc but the old English word “Fix” also comes to mind.
So, a good day much enjoyed by all, and a great effort by the organisers not only arranging the event but also re-arranging it at such short notice. A truly heroic feat of scrambling! No injuries, no ill effects and in all we raised well over £5,000 for the Lord Mayor’s charities. Congratulations to all the crew for a fine result, many thanks to those Phoenixes who turned up to support us and above all thanks to the Firebirds for a splendid day.