After Terry signed us up for this event last fall, 15 club members signed up to go.
The weather leading up to the event was wacky, and the Rideau Canal was closed the entire week. Fortunately, temperatures dropped on Friday, and the organizers secured approval from the National Capital Commission to allow the practice sessions to go ahead. Practice time was shortened from nine to five hours, and in re-arranging practice times, our team “Here there be Dragons” was dropped from the schedule! However, after much back and forth, we finally secured a practice time at 1:20 p.m.
George had safely arrived back from Mexico, and five club members drove up from Kingston to join him on the ice. A brief coaching session later – “Don’t reach. Plant the stick at a negative angle. Grip the ice and rotate with your upper body.” – and with an experienced volunteer steersperson at the helm, we flew down the ice with the wind behind us. The boat was turned around, we got back in, and paddled through molasses back up the other way. When you have 30 km/h winds, gusting to 50, direction of travel matters…
After the team captains’ meeting at 5, during which the NCC assured us the ice was about 60 cm thick, we returned to the ice to watch the top fundraisers race. It was very cooooold, but somewhat magical, with the race course lit up by purple lights.
Saturday morning was sunny, but cold. The rest of the team including Terry arrived from Kingston, and once suitably team be-toqued, we headed out for our first race at 10:20. The race took less than a minute, and the team did very well – barely avoiding collision past the finish line with another boat that turned sideways for some reason.
Since the next heat was scheduled for 2 p.m., we decided to head for a warm place in Little Italy. Other teams had the same idea, of course, so it took a while to get good seats.
The 2 p.m. race was into the wind, but again, the team acquitted itself admirably. Terry took over as steersperson, and it just felt right having a familiar voice at the back of the boat, urging us on. After the two heats, we were in 26th place, and thus in the semi-finals!!
Some more waiting until the 4:10 semi-final, this time in Dow’s Lake Pavilion, from where we had a gorgeous view over the lake and the race course. Up against other semi-finalists, and heading into the wind, we came dead last in this race. But was it over for us? No, it was not. The heat was contested, and we had to re-race at 5 p.m. By this time, the sun had gone behind the hills, and the temperature was dropping rapidly. Our second attempt at the semis was a closer race, but we still came last.
At this point, most team members voted with their feet. This day had brought us a lot of fun and new experiences, but it was time to go home. It was only days later that we saw that we could have participated in one of the lesser finals against 2 other teams. How? Not sure. Perhaps other teams let the organizers know they were leaving, which left us technically in the game.
Thank you to George for coming all the way back from his winter abode, and to Terry for joining us from Waterloo.
Thank you to Carolyn for keeping us together by communicating with everyone, and for securing us tables and seats.
Thank you to Dave for leading warm-ups and pre-race team huddles.
Thank you to our supporters – friends of the paddlers, as well as club members Hsu and Susannah for coming out to cheer us on, take pictures, watch our stuff, etc.
Thank you to all the participants! Should we do it again next year?