Monday, 18 June 2007

Ford - 0 MG - 1

It promised to be a fantastic day. Saturday 26th June marked a day of celebration for Nanjing, this was the day of the 7th Annual Sheraton Dragon Boat Race on Mouchu Lake, Nanjing. 32 teams from in and around Nanjing had entered, some of the most famous ones were Dyson, BASF, The Sheraton Hotel, A O Smith, Sunlife Insurers, DHL, Honeywell, AIG, 3 Teams from Ford, the 4 times holders of the cup Carrefour and of course MG!

I captained the MG team and regained my position of ‘First Oar’, we had been training for the last couple of months, and since our previous defeat in ChangZhou we had reverted to the original team – the team that got us to 4th place in last years competition. My fellow English men, Bob and John joined me in the race, and we had the great camaraderie back, with MG chanting and a recital of “Row, Row, Row your boat, gently down the stream” after we finished our training sessions.

The sun was shining and a gentle breeze kept the temperature down to a manageable 30 degrees – cool for this time of the year. Thousands lined the banks of the lake, and the show opened with a display from each team, most chose to win the crowd by getting a bunch of young girls in very short skirts to perform a cheerleading dance, we however chose to do something more traditional and had the MG drummers perform. After the opening ceremony the drummers joined our fans on the side of the lake, and would bang as loud as possible as we passed in our boat – a great boost of encouragement during the last half of the race.

In the first round we were drawn against the 4 times champions Carrefour, they were this years favorites again. We knew all we had to do was keep up with them, the competition was a timed event so it wasn’t just good enough to beat the others in your heat, you were racing the other 31 teams for a place in the semi finals (only 12 went through to the next round). As predicted Carrefour beat us – but only by 1 tenth of a second! We had to wait until the last 8 teams finished to know if we would go through to the semis. The times came out and we were in the next round, qualifying 6th fastest.

The semis would also be timed, and we were drawn against Carrefour again! Our game plan was the same – keep up the champions!
Also in our heat was Ford, privately I desperately wanted to beat them. The Goliath that is Ford Vs the David of MG.
My dreams came true and we beat Ford, not only that but we beat Carrefour as well – albeit by the same 1 tenth of a second they had beat us by in the previous race! We still had to wait until the other semi’s had finished before we knew if we had made the finals – it was a tense and nerve wracking 30 minutes before the news came through – we had done it, the roar from our team was joined by the drums, and just in case any one from the neighboring provinces hadn’t heard the news – our shouting certainly woke everyone up.

The three finalists would be us, The Nanjing Sheraton who had recorded the fastest time all day (by 5 seconds!), and our old enemy Carrefour! In our hearts we had already won – we had hoped for a top ten position, to be guaranteed at least 3rd was incredible. The nerves were shot as we prepared for the final; we had a group hug and a rousing speech to inspire once more.

As we paddled out to the starting area I noticed my son on the bank nearest us – I waved my oar at him and he gave me a thumbs up, this was all I needed to lift my spirits. We started off fantastically and by half way were a 3rd of a boat in the lead, however Carrefour were catching up fast, as we were exhausted towards the end of the race, with each stroke they got closer, and closer. We stuck our heads down and dug deep into our reserves making a last dash for the finish line – I didn’t know the result, for me it was too close to call – then I turned and looked at the Carrefour team, they were enraged, throwing their oars into the lake, it was then I had realized the impossible had become fact. I stood up in the boat to congratulate my team. We had won the biggest Dragon boat contest in Nanjing, fairly and squarely beating 31 other teams to the first place position – the celebration were incredible and continued on into the night – this was a day I would always remember.

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