On Saturday 25th July 2015, a team from Hilary Meredith Solicitors took to the open water of West Kirby Marine Lake to take part in a charity Dragon Boat race organised and in aid of Headway Wirral.
Having chosen the name ‘HMS Victory’, our team of 14 would-be master mariners arrived at the lake full of good spirit. Despite no experience and no practice, we organised ourselves into a competitive unit with Wendy Pilkington as the chosen drummer. Sea sickness tablets might have been a good idea once we saw the swell on the lake!!
After collecting our life jackets (to a team sigh of relief) and our paddles, we took part in a brief demonstration, highlighting to those teams around us that we lacked a particularly useful skill…. namely co-ordination!
We cautiously boarded our dragon boat and set off paddling to the race start. Our opponents for the first race were Carpenters Legal and as we wobbled side to side precariously as we began our practice paddle. We quickly learnt the importance of sitting as close to the edge of the boat as possible in an attempt to maintain balance thanks to our bellowing trusty helmsman.
We paddled against the tide and on arriving at the race start, we all felt we had already completed a race. It now dawned on us that dragon boat racing was hard work!! However, on hearing the word to start racing, our competitive streak kicked in. The adrenaline was pumping and our primitive shouts of encouragement to each other meant we soared forwards keeping neck and neck with the other team. In the last few strides, we overcame their efforts to finish and win by a few tenths of a second!
Our 2nd race was against Silverbeck Rymer. Despite our new found confidence, events conspired against us. When the race started, our boats were not level and our opponent began the race with the lead of about 1 ½ lengths. Our herculean effort to draw level come to nothing but despite losing we had improved on our previous time by over 2 seconds.
Our final race was against Whitfields. Our previous two races had fettled our paddling skills and watching us paddle was now like watching the galley scene from Ben Hur. Our confidence was high although this was no doubt helped by the rum rations we had just consumed at the local hostelry!
This time we started level pegging and the race was closely fought until our opponent encountered an unexpected rudder problem causing them to veer off to the right. Our shouts of delight at their misfortune may have seemed unkind but we were in it to win and we did improving on our previous time by another 2 seconds.
So the day ended with two wins out of three, a remarkable and to be honest unexpected result.
Sadly, our times were too slow to enable us to qualify for the finals but to be honest the rum had come out again by then and our rendition of “what becomes of the drunken sailor” ensured our further participation in the day was limited to the bar area.
Everyone involved had a fantastic day and I am sure would jump at the chance to take part again in the future though the real winner on the day was Headway Wirral for who we raised nearly £1,000.
Finally, a special thanks to Polly Hammond who came along to cheer the team and ended up being the official photographer and depositary for all things valuable and to Helen Whittaker and Wendy Pilkington for taking over the organising of the day.