The Birth of Pink Dragons Dragon Boat Team

In 2005 Auckland had only one breast cancer survivor dragon boat team and Graeme Rountree felt strongly that a city this size should be able to muster at least one other team. He had coached the first team for five years, gaining valuable experience along the way, and travelling with them to Vancouver, Canada, the birthplace of breast cancer survivor dragon boating.

He set out to spread the word of his dream of a second team in Auckland by speaking about dragon boating at a couple of breast cancer support groups. His enthusiasm and passion for the sport was infectious, and six women signed up for the first meeting to discuss the formation of a new team. On November 20th, 2005, an unlikely group met at the Band Rotunda in the Domain – a young man, his wife and baby, and six middle-aged women and one dog. But out of small beginnings come great things. We enjoyed a walk together, discussing how we could draw together enough people to form a sports team of twenty paddlers. Graeme’s involvement in the sport helped smooth the path of a new team, and we few went off to recruit both breast cancer survivors and non-BCS people who were keen to have a go at dragon boating and help us swell the numbers for our first season.

We met at the America’s Cup base at the Viaduct Basin on November 23 and the following three Wednesdays, learning how to paddle, and each week our numbers grew until we had gathered together 20 paddlers. We changed to Tuesday evenings, which has been one of our regular training sessions ever since.

We raised funds through a modest subscription and two generous donations, one from our inaugural sponsor, Hammerheads Seafood Restaurant, who continues to sponsor us every season, and the other from Thelma Mayhill, the mother of a team member. This money enabled us to buy paddles and our racing t-shirts, and enter our first Auckland Dragon Boat Festival on March 18th, 2006. We continued to meet on Sundays in April for a walk and chat, and finished the season with a fun-filled “family day” festival in Hamilton on April 23rd.

Robin Gamble.
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