The Henley Dragons accepted the challenge and triumphed around the 21.6 mile Great River Race on Saturday (8 September). The race is open to all paddle/rowing craft to negotiate the 21.6miles from Millwall in east London to Ham in west London. Having overcome all logistical challenges of transporting a 22ft trailer across London, and fitting a fighter jet nose cone onto the front of the dragon boat to try to minimise waves into the boat, Henley showcased a team of 16 paddlers, plus a helm & drummer for the occasion. The helm would need his wits about him with the choppy conditions, unpredictable rowing boats with a wide wing span and requirement to navigate the river following certain bridge arches. The drummer certainly overcame his soggy bridge information to advise the helm of which arches to pass under.
Starting second from the back with a handicap start, Henley fought their way through the pack of boats as they all made way through London with the incoming tide. Despite the advantages of paddling with the tide, they fought the headwind throughout. It was a fantastic race, passing all the iconic London landmarks, weaving in and out of the rowing boats, dragon boats, outriggers and traditional long boats..there was always a boat to chase.
Henley Dragons put on a fantastic performance, they achieved their club personal record, 3rd fastest boat by 11 seconds, handicaps put them 45/320 boats, 1st dragon boat across the line and they overtook 273 boats in a time of 2:22:57.