Team GB at the European Dragon Boat Racing Championship in Nottingham

Lizzy Brock competes at the European Dragon Boat Racing for Team GB

This year the coaching team decided to have seven training weekends over the three month period between selection and the Europeans to ensure the Premier team representing GB was at its best come race day. Each weekend included two days of three, often gruelling, water sessions as well as travelling to and from Longridge in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. Paddlers selected from Exeter, myself included, travelled a total of 2506 miles during these three short months to attend all seven sessions.

Lizzy Brock reports on her time competing for Team GB:

“With the excitement of the Olympics gradually reaching fever pitch throughout the summer of 2012, training for what would be my second experience competing as a member of the GB dragon boating team continued at a breakneck pace. This year, in parallel with the start of the Olympics, the target of the long hours spent on the water, and in the gym, was the tenth European Dragon Boat Championships being held in Holme Pierrepont National Watersports Centre, Nottingham.

In the sport of Dragon Boating each boat is comprised of a helm, a drummer and ten rows of paddlers sitting abreast and paddling forward together in time. The training weekends were spent perfecting timing and practicing paddling technique, such as placing the weight of the body over the gunnel of the boat, and onto the blade during the stroke, whilst remaining seated. In this respect the stroke itself most resembles the Olympic sport of C1 canoeing.

Turns out, the preparation worked. The Premier Mixed crew achieved a clean sweep over the three distances of 2 km, 200m and 500m. The team achieved gold in all three distances, leaving the competition to deal with the wash they trailed behind. The Women’s Premier crew stormed to success in their 2 km and 500m but were pipped to the top spot by the Germans over the 200m distance by 0.6 of a second. Still, they came away with two hard earned golds and a silver medal. The GB Premier Open crew, comprised of the fasted paddlers in the country, came against some tough competition as well. The finishing times of all boats in the 2 km race were separated by a mere second and a half, a reflection of how hotly contested all races in this category would be for the whole championship.

With this in mind they were pleased when they placed bronze in the 2km and 200m events and overjoyed when, in the last 500 m race of the day, they won the gold. In their euphoria the crew went from some fairly stoic characters to downright giddy men, the respect for their coach and each other evident and reciprocated throughout the squad.

The three days of racing were attended by a total of nine countries, seven of which represented in the Premier Mixed category, comprised of the fastest male and female paddlers from that nation, and four of which were represented in the Premier Women’s category. In addition to this was a crew from Tahiti, sent by their country to experience racing the best Europe had to offer.

While Nottingham lacked the glamour of previous championship locations it did mean that the team had a home advantage and that relatives had a rare opportunity to watch international racing. European Dragon Boating does not receive the same funding as in other parts of the world, so the event was more sparsely attended by other countries than I personally expected. However, it is traditionally the crews in attendance who are the most competitive.

My own participation in the championships has resulted in no less than four gold medals and one silver; two Mixed gold medals in the distances of 200 m and 500 m; two golds and silver from the Premier Woman’s crew. I am very grateful for the sponsorship I received from the University of Exeter and I hope to continue paddling at my local club, Exe-calibre, on the Exe. I would also like to attribute some of my success as a member of Team GB to the readily accessible sporting facilities at the University, without which this achievement would not have been possible.”

Date: 31 August 2012