Monday, November 20, 2006

Let's go round again

Yesterday the HKOCC team competed once again in the Around the Island Race. This year we were able to put in a women’s crew. It’s 46K right round the island so it’s a change race – where paddlers jump in and out of the boat in a kind of relay. There were a couple of international crews paddling this year – Team Hawaii (the gods of the outrigger world) and Poksai, a strong women’s crew from Guam. Accordingly, I was acutely aware that yesterday was hellishly polluted, with extremely poor visibility and a faintly acrid taint in the wind: “please leave your tropical island paradise, where the skies are always blue, and come to see the sights of Hong Kong… er… oh.”

To the sailors’ great chagrin, there was no wind yesterday and the water was as flat as a pancake, so every single outrigger canoe (and there were nine), and two oceangoing double sculls, finished ahead of the sailors.

The race itself was pretty tough (our time was 4 hours 50 minutes, compared to team Hawaii’s 3:15), but quite exhilarating, even the sea changes, where you bob in the water as the boat veers towards you, hoping that you’ll have the strength to grab the sides and haul yourself in, in a sort of panicked blur (“Imagine there’s a shark underneath you”, I was advised). I have bruises in all the wrong places (from landing inelegantly on the side of the canoe) and my hands are in shreds, but it was a brilliant experience, especially paddling in through the harbour with ferries coming in on either side, the water like a washing machine, wake and waves everywhere and Hong Kong’s tallest building, 2 IFC, appearing through the gloom followed by the alien structure of the Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The above picture shows our boat coming in (I'm at seat two) - and gives a hint of just how murky the air was.

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