Saturday, 21 May, 2011

Building on the ‘unique’ memories of previous paddling tours, forged over buckets of Long Island Ice Tea’s in the paradise getaway of Borocay, Philippines and having finally settled the hotel bill from our trip to Shandong, which included the cost of a hotel bed broken in half by the combined weight of the team, FD found itself back for another overseas tour-of-duty, this time a little closer to home in Zhu Hai, PRC.

The Beginning

As the local competition was a men’s only tournament, this meant our FD Girls team, the FD Heartbreakers (a.k.a. the “FD B*llbreakers”), were unable to join us on this occasion, leaving the men to focus on…the paddling…Funnily enough, the trip coincided with the stag-do of a core member of the team, which set the theme for the weekend and a massive first night in Zhu Hai. 
Waking up that second day, it felt as if the FD team had been the subject of a well planned conspiracy, as “the morning after the night before” resulted in heavy casualties and virtually the entire team being non-starters for the morning coach pickup. 

In particular, our “Rookie of the Year” contender, Naveen (Nav), was noticeably late in re-joining the flock and questions remain as to why (and how) he boarded the bus with his shorts on backwards…

Breakfast congee, complemented by fresh mantou, mixed in with the heavy odour of stale Tsingtao proved a sufficient wake-up call for the team and the boys were ready and raring to go. As expected, upon arrival at the competition area, FD disembarked from the bus in true rock-star fashion, with heavy shaded sunglasses, local media and paparazzi surrounding the team and adoring female fans throwing themselves at us in abundance…at which point we actually woke up, got kicked off the bus and told to get to our patch of turf ASAP because we were late…Once again, Nav was no where to be seen and it wasn’t till some time later that he successfully re-grouped with the rest of the sausages.

It was a hot day, that first day of competition and through the haze of humidity, the boys were ebbing in and out of consciousness, waking up in startled, cold-sweats from terrifying visions of the night before – flashing imagery of mankinis and far too many man-hugs and faint memories of painful Karaoke renditions of Sting’s “Roxanne” by Nav.

The First Race

We then lined up for our first race (over 800 metres which was 799 metres too long!), with steely determination to get it over and done with so we could return to sleeping on the lawns. Before we knew it, we were off, and like a well oiled-German made luxury vehicle we seamlessly deep’ed, quick’ed, long’ed and quick’ed again for what seemed like an eternity, finishing a close last place between us and the Zhu Hai water rescue speedboat. FD had finished last in our heat but at least we did not capsize in the infested water!

With the chance at redemption in another heat, we re-focused on fulfilling our obligations with the local populace, by sending our ‘white guys’ out to get mobbed for photo opportunities by the local fans. “Wow, so tall” “Wow, so good looking” “Wow, so hairy” the crowd oozed, the Zhu Hai residents were clearly impressed with the depth of FD gweilo talent. Lining up for our second race of the day, FD were prepared to throw the kitchen sink at it, with our eyes firmly fixed on the full-length roast pig and big flask of Chinese rice wine that was up for grabs for top 6-place finishers.

The positions in the competition were determined based on the combined points over 2 races. Since we had come last in our first heat, we knew the only thing we could do was go up! After a quick discussion amongst the coaches and captain, we decided to field only 18 men instead of 20 to lighten the boat. Our boat travelled much smoother this time as people had started to recover from their hangover! Through vodka filled beads of sweat we managed to come a very close 4th by 0.01sec. Only when we checked the final results did we realize we had come 7th overall (out of 12).

The Result

Alas, had we come 3rd in the final race, we would’ve come 6th and more importantly been awarded the Roast Pig and Chinese Wine! Nevertheless, this did not discourage the team as we celebrated yet another great race with bottles of icy cold beer!

After our celebrations, we packed our bags and headed back to the hotel. But as we boarded the bus to leave the race venue, once again, where the f* was Nav?! Thus, the nickname “Sat Nav” was born, as that is what is required to locate this man.

Although our total paddling time was less than 12minutes for the entire trip, we drew important lessons from the experience:
– it’s true what they say that it’s not about destination, but the journey
– there’s a reason why camera’s are banned on stag do’s
– Nobody parties like FD parties

Next trip – Busan, Korea.

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