Thursday, June 10, 2010

resting and waiting

The Rose Festival Dragon Boat races are this weekend. Day after tomorrow they begin with the opening ceremony at 8 AM. The races begin about 9 AM each day and end somewhere around 5 PM. My team, the MissFit Dragons, know our races for Saturday (9:42 and 2:03); the Sunday times, heats, and lanes will be determined after Saturday's races are done. At this point, we don't know if we will be an A team or a B team. We could fall into either category this year. On Sunday we may be in two races or three.

The weather being forecast is amazingly perfect, especially given all of the weather drama we've been having. I will qualify that "drama" as being relative to here - where drama does not generally involve tornadoes or hurricanes or severe earthquakes. What we have had is a lot of rain. Here in the known-for-cloudy-skies-and-rain Pacific Northwest when I say a lot of rain, I mean a lot of unseasonably frequent and heavy downpours. Buckets and buckets of water, for days on end. By the third or fourth day of the month we had tripled what we normally get for the entire month.

But this weekend it is forecast to be upper 70s to low 80s for a high and sunny. Okay, a little overcast would make those temperatures perfect in my opinion for when we're on the boat - but I'll take it. We will have two tents and enough shade to keep from overheating. (Boy, do I sound like a typical Oregonian, or what!) Seriously, when we have the races, it's best to keep our muscles warmed up and keep our bodies from getting chilled or overheated.

And it looks like this weekend the weather will be perfect. The races themselves are about three minutes long; it takes longer to get the team on board, paddle out to the start, get all four boats in the heat lined up, and get going than it does to get from the start to the finish.

With all this rain, it will make my job a little more challenging, as will the nicer weather. The amount of rain we've had has raised the water level. Normally this time of year it's running about a level six to seven; right now it's about fourteen to sixteen. Which also makes it swifter. That means that steering will be a little different, since we are crossing the river which means going across the current. I am visualizing holding a straight line and hitting our target (the buoy with the same color flag as the one on the boat we're assigned to) on the other side, so that our flag catcher - the long-limbed and limber Tawna who will be hanging out over the nose of the dragon - can grab the flag easily. Which brings me to the wind.

I'm really good at holding the line. We've also done some deliberate "near miss" flag catching practices to build confidence on last minute corrections. That may be caused by the swifter current carrying us off target, other boats encroaching on our (unmarked, generally) lane, or - tada - the wind. We did have one practice run on Thursday where the swifter current did carry us one way and the wind blew the flag the other direction and I had to do a sharp adjustment. And the amazing Tawna still grabbed the flag, even though it was on the opposite side of where we want it and was bending toward the water.

The clearer skies typically mean more wind. So the "oops we might miss it, correct! correct!" practices will come in handy. We are expecting stronger winds than we've had - though I know they won't be terrible. But the dragon's ears and tail really snag the wind and it does up the challenge of going cross-wind and change my tilling. Keeping the line takes more focus and work - and I can do it. I won't need to be also looking out for the "dare you" boaters, or the other teams practicing & who has the right of way, or the floating flotsam and half-trees that have been prevalent the last couple weeks. There will be booms put up to keep out the boaters (along with a couple of patrols) and the floating debris. My whole focus will be on keeping us on target, as straight as possible, and bringing our nose in to the perfect position for Tawna to grab our flag smoothly.

Tonight we had our final gathering before the races. We are strong. We are fit (well, I'm getting back to fit; still not quite back there after the long annoying "Northwest Crud"). We are ready. And we are a great team - cohesive - willing - and focused.

An easy day today. An easy day tomorrow. And Saturday and Sunday we sweat.

Bring it on!
photograph from