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Beauty of the Composite Team

Submitted by Clare Purcell, Dragons Abreast Canberra, Canberra, Australia

Dragons Abreast Canberra (DAC) from Australia have settled back into regular life in Canberra following the IBCPC Festival in New Zealand. Winter is almost upon us; we are paddling in fog, and we are telling our stories about our adventures both at the festival and our travels following.

The festival in New Zealand was amazing throughout. From day one we had a ball.

If feels that planning for DAC to go to the festival began an eternity ago. The world changed in the blink of an eye. COVID turned our lives upside down and there were times when we didn’t even think the festival would go ahead. But go ahead it did. What an amazing effort by Meri, Deb, Andrew and Brooke, and the countless other workers behind the scenes.

DAC were in the fortunate position of having 30 BCS and 4 supporter paddlers register for NZ. A decision was made that we would have 22 BCS ladies in the DAC boat and the remaining 8 BCS ladies would be placed in a composite boat. The composite team became known as The Canberra Wanderers.

I was one of composite boat crew, and as team manager of DAC for the NZ trip, I had many opportunities to chat with Meri.

From day one I knew that I wanted to be a part of an international composite team. It would have been easy to team up with another crew from Australia but for me that was not ideal. The IBCPC event is a chance to network and to paddle with ladies from far and wide. Meri had told me about her experiences paddling with composite teams in previous IBCPC regattas and I knew that was what I wanted for the Canberra Wanderers.

After a few false starts, Meri let me know that we would be paddling with The Pink Dragon Ladies, 15 ladies from Sweden. I was VERY EXCITED.

What does any team manager do when she finds out such information? GOOGLE THEM OF COURSE. And I was not disappointed with what I saw. I was able to share You Tube videos of The Pink Dragon Ladies in action. The excitement ramped up a notch.

Sadly the 15 Swedish ladies became 14 as one had to withdraw from the team.

The match up was quite serendipitous. The Canberra Wanderers had eight paddlers and we needed 14 more to make up a full boat. The Pink Dragon Ladies had 14 paddlers and needed 8 extra paddlers. The stars aligned. We were able to help each other out in the best way possible. As good fortune would have it, we were able to fill all the positions in the boat. A match made in heaven. 😊

As BCS paddlers, we don’t often get a chance to paddle with and against our peers. The IBCPC provides us with the biggest stage in the world to do that. We are participating on a level playing field. And it feels good. The combination of paddlers from two nations, who may have had to paddle short without each other, was an amazing thing.

In the lead-up to our departure from Australia, Emilia, the Swedish team manager, and I were in email contact to chat about the team and how it would look come race day.

Emilia went one step further and arranged a virtual meeting with us. Four ladies from the Canberra Wanderers and most, if not all the Swedish team met each other and had the most glorious of chats. I felt like I knew these ladies before we even got to NZ.


The Pink Dragon Wanderers came together for the first time at training on Lake Karapiro. We had one hour to get to know each other. The Canberra ladies learnt the Swedish race start and the rest of the hour was about feeling comfortable together as a new team. Kudos to Emilia and Donna, the DAC coach, for doing a boat plan in minutes. With our weights recorded we slotted into our preferred positions seamlessly. It ended up being the perfect boat configuration.

Then came race days. We had been planning for this for 3 years. But in essence we had only planned for one hour with Sweden. But we felt comfortable with each other. We knew that we were a perfect fit and were ready to combine our talents.

Our first 500m race gave us a chance to see how two teams became one. In unfavorable conditions we were really pleased with our race.

Race two proved to be an exciting one. We had a great start and kept our power on and concentration high till we crossed the finish line. We found out that we had won the race when we were off the boat heading back to the marquee.

To say that we were excited is an understatement. It was like we had just won Olympic Gold. But even better😊. We did it with our peers. It was a team effort. Sadly, due to high winds, the finals for the 500m were cancelled

Day two provided more excitement as the Pink Dragon Wanderers paddled a fast and furious 200m race. Deteriorating conditions on the lake forced the cancellation of any further racing.

DAC, with our new Swedish friends had the best of times at the festival. We paddled, we laughed, we danced (lots), we sang, and reworded Abba songs got a big workout. We exchanged gifts, swapped race shirts and the Aussie contingent learnt “the duck” which we used in warmups. We have made lifelong friends.

What we take away from our experience with our new friends is immeasurable. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

In the spirit of BCS sisterhood, DAC proudly heeded the call for “pool paddlers”. Eight DAC ladies, at the last minute, jumped in with Go Pink DC from Washington in the US and paddled the two 500m races with them. That’s what this festival is all about though isn’t it. Being there for one another.

Paddles up and a big 3 cheers for a wonderful and exciting regatta. Despite the wind and its impact on the paddling, NZ pulled out all the stops to make it a memorable experience.

I thank Meri for her huge effort to ensure the composite teams were a huge success.