The Parkes Endeavour Dragons decided to re-enact a challenging Sydney race on its home turf and include the rest of the Western Region clubs when COVID derailed plans of participation.
The Parkes Dragon Boat Club (PDBC) had trained hard right through the Christmas break for the famous 8km Bei Loon challenge on Sydney’s Pittwater, but COVID uncertainty saw the team cancel its plans about two weeks before the race date.
Coach Beth Thomas and sweep Bill Thomas came up with a plan to invite all the clubs in the region to do the race at Lake Endeavour. On Saturday about 100 paddlers from seven clubs turned up for the event with some quirky surprises on the course offering teams the opportunity to circumnavigate a makeshift Scotland Island, while a miniature of the famous Wild Oats yacht was anchored in a small bay.
Each of the five teams recorded their own distance and time as the five teams started the challenge at ten minute intervals. Dubbo Outback Dragons did the fastest time of 44:41. Parkes came in second in 46:54 and Colour City Dragons from Orange third in 47:53. The combined teams of Forbes/Pinnacles/Mudgee and Bathurst/Parkes were fourth and fifth respectively in 49:50 and 54:32. Six members of the Parkes team did two races back-to-back to help make up numbers in the Bathurst boat.
“The day was a roaring success,” said Beth. “Our Lake Endeavour was just filled with joy!” She told her team: “You’ve made Endeavour Dragons a hit in the Western Region.”
President of PDBC Tony Gatt said the sportsmanship and camaraderie reflected the intention of the invitation and all who attended enjoyed the day. “Special mention to Bill and Beth and the rest of the PDBC members for their hard work leading up to the day. Our sincere thanks to those who travelled and joined in. We look forward to many more.”
Messages from the participating clubs came pouring in with several saying it should become an annual event. The Colour City Dragons said: “Thank you for having the foresight and determination to organise our very own regional 8km challenge.” They said the inclusion of the quirky elements added an entertaining touch to the day.
The Dubbo team said they were thrilled to paddle around Scotland Island for the first time! “We’ve paddled Bei Loon five times and never got to do the island. (Getting to paddle around the real island is often hampered by bad weather when the course has to be changed.)
The organiser of the Bei Loon challenge George Webster could not believe that a Western Region version of the challenge took place. “I am absolutely lost for words… fabulous and in fact quite touch-ing,” was his reaction.
Just like at Bei Loon, each team went home with a lovely trophy, and memories of a fun day with fellow paddlers.
By Maggi Barnard