by DN

Hokulele placed 2nd in the 440 meter championship race falling to the Tampa Bay Blade Runners by 1 second in the Tampa Bay International Dragon Boat Festival at Cotanchobee Park in down town Tampa on April 29th.  Hokulele faced 36 other teams, including many of Florida’s top dragon boat teams, at the festival on a hot and windy Saturday.

With most team members arriving on various flights the day before the festival, we had some kinks to work out at our short five o’clock practice the evening prior to the races.  Even at 5 PM, it was scorching hot as we worked on blending with our teammates from Austin and San Francisco, while our steersmen wrestled to control the lighter and bouncier boats.

Though Hokulele won our first 440 meter race of the festival, the kinks were still there and our time was not impressive.  Placement in the final would be determined by cumulative times in the preliminary heats, meaning that we still had a lot of work left to do to earn a spot in the championship heat. 

The wind had been building throughout the morning and by our second heat, racers faced a stiff headwind.  At that point, the team seemed to focus and gel and paddled a smoother race in the second round, coming in 2nd and qualifying for the championship heat, finishing 0.71 seconds behind the Blade Runners.

Hokulele came out strong and steady in the final and found ourselves in 3rd or 4th place around the halfway point.  With a strong power and effective sprint down the stretch, we were surging on the other boats at the finish line taking 2nd place (1:53:29), one second behind the champion Blade Runners (1:52:29).  Congratulations to the Blade Runners who paddled strong all day and to the 3rd place Pan Am Flying Fish!

Following the main event, the top 10 teams participated in a 2000 meter race. The race consisted of 2 loops around a 1000 meter course with buoy turns on either end.  The teams had a rolling start with the # 10 team starting, followed 10 seconds later by the #9 team, and so on.  Hokulele was seated in the second to last starting position, followed by the Blade Runners.  Team Hokulele is well suited for longer distances and took first place in the 2000 m, passing four boats along the way, and finishing in 7:38:00.  Our congratulations to the Flying Fish for their second place finish and to the Blade Runners on their 3rd place finish with times of 7:44:47 and 7:46:56 respectively.  What a fun race, and a nice way for Hokulele to end the day!

All in all it was a good weekend and festival.  This was our second trip to compete in the Tampa area in April (raced outriggers at Shark Bite two weeks earlier), and like the first trip Hokulele hung tough with the strong Florida paddlers.  Much appreciation to Rhonda and Matt for driving the gear over from Texas and back, thanks you two!  Thanks as well to Marshall, who stepped up (and fell down) and did a great job steering for us.  And finally, it was great having Brendan back in the boat!  San Francisco really isn’t that far; don’t know why you keep missing practice.