Aoraki Dragon Boat
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Aoraki Dragons see three key strategies to grow the sport; • make it affordable • make it flexible • make it visible.
So we have several options for training (and racing).
A fantastic venue is the man-made lake north of Christchurch, developed by 'Infinity Investment Group'. The 'satellite town' of Pegasus is just north of Woodend so it is about 25 minutes drive from Christchurch (see the map below). Aoraki 'christened' this lake on Sunday 21st February 2010 with the "Early Bird Regatta"
Pegasus Lake is a man-made recreational lake, about 700 m long, with many bays and beaches. It has over four km of shoreline with diverse on-shore environment featuring beaches, parks and walkways.
However the open racing area is just over 540 m which is perfect for 500 m race. While boats have to stop fairly quickly, this is no different from nearly any other venue (including Auckland and Wellington Harbour racing, Darling Harbour or even Racice in Prague).
The Lake is about 85 m wide at the narrowest. The edges of the lake drop off fairly quickly (about 30 degree gradient) to a massive 5 m deep along most of its length - this doesn't sound like much but it's a pretty long way down, even when the lake is drained! So the narrowest section is about 75 m, which could allow for up to six lanes of 12.5 m each. Click here and here for photos...
There is a small island at the southern end of the course. Teams must NOT take a boat around this island as the small bridge on the eastern side is dangerous to navigate. Several experienced sweeps have caused costly boat damage trying to paddle under it. See the "Exclusion Zone Map".
Turns in longer races (such as a 2,000 m race) are done in the main part of the lake. Such a race generally starts by the "Yacht Club" in front of the Swing Bridge (bottom of the map), and runs up the right hand side toward the "Lake Pavillion" at the top end. Turn left around a buoy, run down past the "sandy beach" and jetty, turn around a buoy abeam the Yacht Club then back up the main lake (again keeping right) around the top buoy and back down to the finish line by the Yacht Club.
Super 12 races (click for a map) are sometimes run on the main lake. Earlier regatta had these 250 metre races starting from the top beach and finishing half way down the lake. But since about 2011 the start line is generally run from the middle. That is, the start line is just north of the point at the southern end of the "Sandy Beach". Teams race down to the standard Finish Line abeam the 'Yacht Club'. And the famous Le Mans races are run in a diagonal across the lake, finishing literally at the feet of waiting paddlers and spectators on Kings Beach.
Lake Rua (at Roto Kohatu).
Before 2008, racing in Christchurch was mostly at "Lake Tahi", the western half of the two lakes that make up Roto Kohatu, at the northern end of Sawyers Arms Road.
The Roto Kohatu reserve includes two lakes - "Tahi" is a jetski lake, leased to the Jetski Club. They have sole use of the lake and for safety reasons it is not available for any other users except by arrangement through the Jetski Club. The other lake ("Rua") is used by a sailing school, a model yacht club and course fishing club. Click to see aerial view and here or find it on Google Maps.
But in 2011, CIAL team sourced a venue closer to town. The CCC Parks Ranger has allowed our teams free access and it makes it easier for teams to get there, although it has limited space. Boats, Sweep Oars ad PFDs are locked up on in a 40ft Container hear the lake's edge but most boats are taken back to New Brighton over winter.
The area around Greywacke Rd is being redeveloped, so now our access is via the north end of Sawyers Arms Rd. Head north off the Johns Rd roundabout, and after about 250 metres, there is a gravel road on the right, which accesses Lake Tahi and Rua. Drive over the hill and past the Jet Ski lake, past the small water polo area and through the gate to Lake Rua. Go right along the lake edge to the three big containers.
The area is comfortable to have a BBQ and other things. They are comfortable with the length (250 to 300 meters) as we can turn easily and do our stamina pieces and race pieces. This also aids other teams who cannot make the trek out to Pegasus or Kaiapoi. We are also very well set up on the site now, with a 40 ft Container to securely store much of our gear.
In pre-earthquake times, Porritt Park in Dallington [was] home to Canterbury's rowing community - and for a good reason. The Avon River is about 45 metres wide along this reach, and runs straight for about a kilometer. Kerr's Reach was ideal for Dragon Boat racing, making it easy to set a course of nearly any distance; the Internationally run 200 or 250m sprint, the middle distance 500m or a full 1,000m course.
The stretch of water [was] also ideal for training runs, with a broad turning circle at the southern end (past the finish line).
Aoraki is always on the lookout for other water courses that would be suitable for hosting the National Championships or South Island Invitationals etc. An excellent venue is the man-made lake to the east of Ashburton, developed by the Ashburton Aquatic Park Charitable Trust. The turnoff to the lake (in Tinwald) is about 50 minutes drive from Christchurch.
The main section of Lake Hood is about 2.3km long, and includes a spectacular 2,000m rowing course, eight lanes wide. Aoraki first used Lake Hood for the South Island Champs in March 2009.
This involves a notified closure of the northern end of the Lake. Buoys are set up (about 15m intervals), marking five or six lanes for the 500m race length.
A 'start rope' is hung from portable scaffolding at each side of the lake near the beach. Race starter stands on the western bank, with a PA (including a speaker on the near bank plus one on the eastern bank or an anchored boat). The starter uses an air horn which triggers the photo finish timer via a radio mic. The starters calls can also be played over the PA at the finish line/ tent area/ spectators' area.
Temporary Grandstands (five rows high) are set up along the course and at the finish line.
Water Ski area
It also has a separate Water Ski Course, measuring about 750m long and 100m wide. It is enclosed by an embankment about 15m wide, which makes it a spectacular and 'intimate' venue. There is an outlet at the northern end to the main lake, so boats can easily come and go, but wake wash is contained. Click here for aerial photos.
This section is a consistent 2.5m deep although the lake outlet end is more like 4.5 to 5m. The banks are sloped to minimise reflected waves from powerboats, skis and (presumably) Dragon Boats. Lake director David West says this works well in practice.
There is a small island at each end of the course, but there is still ample room for a 500m race course. The width would make it ideal for setting up five or even six lanes. Permanent loading docks accomodate up to nine boats at a time (without 'double parking').
A little closer to Christchurch is Lake Crighton. It was established by the Wright family in about 1996 on farm land in Fraser Rd, approximately 6km SE of Dunsandel and 30 minutes south of Christchurch. It is a good facility for spectators but at 1.5m at the deepest, it is shallower than Lake Hood, and only 75m wide. It is also slightly shorter, at 550m. Interestingly, Lake Hood's Water ski lane was modelled on Lake Crighton.
Since 2013, this has been the venue for Aoraki's January "Super 12" series.
Akaroa District Promotions/Tourism approached us in mid 2012 about running a regatta or event in Akaroa. We thought that January would be a good opportunity to have our informal 'Super 12' series races.
The main harbour can be open to weather and there is a risk with sharing the waterways with casual boaties and tourism operations. So the first venue Aoraki considered was in the north eastern end of the main harbour, in Children's Bay (click the map below for a bigger version). We looked at using French Bay, but the using this site gives better facilities in Jubilee Park, a Sports Complex and more space for teams.
Teams set up on Jubilee Park, with shared use of toilets and power. Arriving from Christchurch/Little River on SH75, turn hard right and past The Grand Hotel. Turn right onto Jubilee Park. We have to take some care in sharing the boat ramp, carpark and part of the inner harbour waterway with casual boaties.
Plan B was to use French Bay, which is right on the doorstep to the cafes and restaurants. Racing would be across French Bay, with the start directly in front of anyone wandering along Beach Road in the centre of town. And the Finish Line right in front of historic Daly's Wharf (pictured). While it is much closer to the "Action", there are problems with boats moored in the way, low tides etc. Teams would have to set up shelters (gazebo or tent) right on the beach directly in front of Crew Loading.
So in 2013 Aoraki made the decision to have the Racing in Children's Bay, near Jubilee Park.
Other South Island options
Out of town
Aoraki is also looking at other venues in Canterbury and the South Island for hosting events, and for fostering new teams (schools and corporates). Lake Hood (just out of Ashburton) has become our 'prime' racing venue, for a number of very good reasons.
Dunedin Harbour has been used in the past, and in January 2009, Otago Museum and Aoraki staged a special regatta in conjunction with their installation: "THE EMPEROR’S DRAGONS, Precious Collections from the Shanghai Museum".
Longer term, Aoraki is also looking at the Southern Lakes which give plenty of options. Queenstown and Frankton Arm are superb venues, as would be Wanaka shorefront.
And once the sport grows with more Otago/Southland teams, Aoraki may even look toward Lake Ruataniwha near Twizel to stage events.
Westport Tourism approached us about running a regatta on the coast in early 2009.
Aoraki think that late January would be a good opportunity to have our Ice Breaker at, say, Lake Brunner. The date could be in December, or move out to January 2010.
We may even run it as a Super 12 series.
The concept would be that Westport Info would pull together a few teams. There could be a couple of local High School teams (Westport and Greymouth), maybe a BC team and certainly a corporate or two with Westland Milk, the DHB, West Coast Development Trust, Solid Energy, Pike River Coal and so on.
Southern Lakes district venues
Still in the very early stages of planning, is Aoraki's expansion into the Southern Lakes area. Lake Wakatipu would be a brilliant racing venue.
The beach in front of Queenstown central shopping district would be the ideal. See Google maps here.
So the solution would be to race long-ways. A course of 500m would be easy to achieve, plus it can avoid the other water traffic. See the map.
Another excellent contender is the bay/beach in the Frankton Arm.
And over the Crown Range is:
Another feasible location in Wanaka township. See map. Again, a great beach directly in front of the town's central shopping district, including alfresco cafes.
Before 2007, training was at Lyttelton, so it required a safety boat and crew (at a cost!) and a keen eye out for changeable weather. Lake Roto Kohatu was the Regatta venue, but it has a high rental cost and is out of the public's eye. So Aoraki Dragons switched operations to the Avon River [click the tabs above to see more], which was a perfect venue for training, practices, regattas and festivals. Boats were in relatively shallow waters, never far from the shore and even extreme weather doesn't pose the same risk as on open seas. But September 2010 changed all that...
Now the main training venue is Lake Rua (aka Roto Kohatu) with some teams training at Lake Pegasus, and on the Avon River (at Owles Terrace, New Brighton).
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(c) Noel Anderton