After a week of wildness and hail having no fury, we had an incredible 9th Annual Knoxville Dragon Boat Festival on Saturday, June 25, 2011!
The week of practice sessions for the 47 teams competing on race day was more unusual than most practice weeks over the past several years. This time around, we had lightning and hail storms to dodge nearly the entire week. On Tuesday night, during the last practice session, as a black cloud lingered over top of us, all the teams made their way to the docking area – except one. Mine, of course. Someone else was steering, but when it became too much with the 60 mph wind and excessive hail, I took over and began getting us to shore while I watched some of my staff and paddlers from the other teams running with us, to see where we might beach. We had a choice: into some rocks, or no. At this point, it felt like my contact lenses might get blown out by the wind, and I kept turning around with my head down so I didn’t lose my vision. We were already in jeopardy and this was not a problem I needed. Every time I turned around to look past the bow, all I could see was wind-blown hail spitting in my face and human figures running in the woods on shore. As I struggled to look forward, I began inching the boat toward a spot with no rocks by maneuvering the oar. Within a few minutes, which felt like a half hour, we made it to a safe spot and everyone disembarked as quickly as possibly. Thank God it was an experienced team full of people who knew what to do. Following a few more close moments with possible storms during practice week, we finally got through the week with only one 15-minute delay.
It was beautiful on race day – mid-80s and sunny! Everything went as well as planned – from marshaling to loading boats, entertainment and team management – it all fell into place. It went so well, we already have people asking about sponsoring and putting in teams for next year!
Here is a video from the Final race where Rick Cox Construction squeaked out a close one.
More info and race recap online at knoxville.racedragonboats.com