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August 14, 2012
The Third Annual Dragon Boat Festival may be remembered for enduring the kind of weather only a dragon might like. Most of the races planned for Saturday along the Oriental waterfront had to be scrubbed because of stormy skies, rain and lingering windy conditions on the race course. Festival organizer Flora Moorman says she’s looking at how to avoid that in the future.After two hours of racing, forboding skies rolled in as the dragon boat team from Charlotte paddled toward the starting line Saturday morning.
Three rounds of racing had been planned through the morning and afternoon for the 20 teams who came from Miami, Raleigh, Charlotte, as well as from Oriental, Pamlico County, New Bern and the military. One team was comprised of Navy and Coast Guardsmen. Several boats were made up of Marines from Cherry Point and other Marines filled out the ranks — “embedding” — in boats needing more crew.From Miami, the Dragon Slayers team which raced in an early heat when the sun was shining and any clouds were far off. It was the only race they got in that day. They completed the 250 meter course in less than a minute and won the Open Division.
The morning started out deceptively clear and relatively calm for the first hour or so of the Dragon Boat races. Seventeen of the twenty teams competed in about a half dozen races in those first two hours.A half hour before the storm came, the Deaton’s Draggin’ Tails rowed out to the race site. Octogenarian Fran Deaton, now in her third year of drumming on the boat. The sky, meanwhile, gave a signal of what might be coming.Team Weyerhauser — the Pulp N Paddlers — get some of the wave action during their race.
But as the last cluster of teams paddled out to take their shot at the 250 meter course along the Oriental waterfront, storm clouds approached more quickly than expected. Those running the race called off that heat and told the boats and crews to head back to the Oriental Town Beach.
Ironically, in order to reach the Town Beach, the boats and their teams of 20 had to paddle the race course anyway. On the way back, the winds stiffened, the waves built and two of the boats tipped over.The crew from the Charlotte Dragon Boat Club/Wells Fargo stay with their boat after it – and they – flipped in to the Neuse River.Even a home-town team, the Gnarly Pirates from Oriental, got swamped in the increasing wave action. As with the Charlotte team, the Gnarly Pirates were unhurt and walked their boat to the Oriental Town Beach.
No one was hurt. The same shallow waters that cultivated the chop also made it possible for the crews to stand up and walk their boats several hundred yards to shore. A pelting rain began to fall, drenching even those who didn’t fall in to the river. Reminded that dragon boat racing spectators as well as participants — everyone scattered for a few hours.
At 1pm the rains had stopped but by then organizers had cancelled the rest of the racing. The awards ceremony took place at 3p under a shining sun but with a stiff breeze still blowing white caps out on the Neuse. Fine weather for a sailboat race, but not necessarily one involving long skinny boats with little in the way of freeboard.The weather made itself felt not only in scuttling much of the racing Saturday, but afterward. The rain went away but the winds cropped back up for the afternoon awards ceremony. There, Elizabeth Buckman of Oriental held down a corner of the otherwise windblown scoreboard while Jeff Aydelette posted the scores.Team Gnarly Pirates as they left the Oriental Town Beach toward the race course. They would return in a more drenched condition after their boat tipped over.
Posted Tuesday August 14, 2012 by Melinda Penkava