By Jiselle Lee
This year, the REACH dragon boat team encountered defeat; not by other racing teams, but by a tornado warning.
For the past eight years, REACH has participated in an annual dragon boat festival in Orlando. We begin practices at the Orlando Rowing Club at the end of summer vacation, and we practice once or twice a month until the race in October.
In June, Praveen Sundar was voted Captain, and Emme Lee and I were voted Co-Captains. Together, we led the team, distributed waivers, and collected fees to prepare them for the race. Although we admittedly struggled to meet the member requirements during the first few practices, we managed to solidify our team before the race.
However, the night before the race when we checked the latest weather reports, we were worried to find that there was a high chance of thunderstorms all Saturday morning. While we hoped that the weather would not prevent us from racing, things took a turn for the worse the next day.
On the morning of October 16th, the team received tornado warnings occurring in the area. At the lake, it was pouring rain and the harsh wind forced us to bundle up and stay under our tent. The team leaders attended the race’s Captains Meeting, where the organizers announced that the races would continue as scheduled. However, the harsh weather was incessant. Our competitors are seasoned racers and have practiced all year round. Not to mention, they were all adults; meanwhile, most of our team was under the age of 18.
After much thought and consideration, the team leaders ultimately decided to back out of the race. Most of us went home to stay in the comfort of our homes, but a few stayed to watch the race. They reported that there was flooding all around the lake for the rest of the day.
Then, coincidentally, on November 9th, 2019, four REACH dragon boat team members raced with Team CHARGE at the Lake Hernando Dragon Boat Festival. Yet once again, we faced challenges during the race due to the weather. During Team CHARGE’s first two races, the racers were at the mercy of the wind and waves, which caused the other racing boats to nearly crash into us. Ultimately, after those two attempts, CHARGE won bronze!
As a Co-captain of the 2019 REACH Dragon Boat Team, this win made me feel victorious. Although we all wished Team REACH could have raced on October 16th, in a way, our hard work paid off. The training and dedication we made to practice our technique allowed us to contribute to Team CHARGE ‘s win.
I hope that the REACH underclassmen who were introduced to dragon boat this year try out for the team again in summer 2020, and I encourage everyone to try racing with CHARGE at any time during the year.
Former REACH captains Kevin Chu and Duc-Thanh Nguyen, REACH VP of Communications Takkai Wong, and 2019 Co-President and Co-Captain Jiselle Lee paddle with Team CHARGE.