Stanford at the 1st Elite College Dragon Boat Race in Tianjin, China

By Lili Hsu
October 5, 2015

The first day we had a quick practice then went to an old culture district with the PKU (Peking University) team. We had a lot of fun chatting on the public bus and tried "tea soup" a tianjin local food that was new to PKU too. That evening all teams got a nighttime river tour of Tianjin. Tianjin was one of the ports where western powers had districts for trade, so there is a bunch of western architecture. There are a lot of bridges, some Chinese versions of fancy Parisian bridges, others super modern. There's a promedade all along the river and the skyscrapers have pretty lights.  There's also a Ferris wheel (the Tianjin Eye) that spans the river.

Second full day was race day, also Chinese holiday (National Day) so there were spectators and TV crews. It was super windy, so they canceled some races before we even started. We were the first heat, first boat on the water. This race was using the tippiest of boats, and I was drumming. We lined up OK (you give the tail to someone on a long dock) but as we were waiting for the other boats to come out the wind pushed us sideways into the dock and we weren't able to straighten out. We tried for a really long time. The boat almost flipped, if I had fought to stay in the boat it definitely would have gone over, so I chose to fall out. The boat was able to recover, and I was right by the dock, so they hauled me out right away. In the end, all races were canceled that day and and we had the afternoon off, so we bought more yummy food and climbed on statutes by the river with some of the race volunteers.

The next day the weather cleared up, so they condensed all the races into one day - one heat per distance (200M, 500M, 4000M). Stanford did better than expected. I was drumming all the races, so I lost my voice by the end. Then there was the final banquet, which was complete chaos, and party in the hotel (China's drinking age is 18, so all the college teams were legal age). Then early morning bus to the airport in Beijing.

It was fun, glad I went. I'm happy to be back and no longer wrangling 11 people. Pollution wasn't that bad, much better than Beijing. The river was kind of sketchy. I saw a number of dead fish and any open wounds would itch until rinsed thoroughly. 

Pictures are slowly trickling out, I'll share when they come through. For now, here is our boat waiting to pull out of the dock for our first actual race (not the windy day).

Stanford at Tianjin 2015

Steering Module Damage

Damage inflicted to the steering module (oar lock, steering arm, steering arm platform) can be as equally detrimental as gunwale damage and just as costly. If the damage is severe enough the boat will be rendered unusable. Fortunately steering module damage is completely preventable using common sense steering practices.

Basic Anatomy of the Steering Module:

  • Oar Lock: Comprised of a metal u-bolt that is secured to the steering arm via metal washers and nuts.
  • Steering Arm: Wood beam that is bolted to the steering arm platform. 
  • Steering Arm Platform: Platform that is used to secure the steering arm to the rear stern. 
  • Rear Stern: Irreplaceable structurally part of the boat. If the stern is damaged the boat is totalled.

Degrees of Steering Module Damage:

  • Damage to the oar lock: Moderate fix.
  • Damage to the steering arm: Difficult fix. 
  • Damage to the steering arm platform: Extremely difficult fix.
  • Damage to the stern: I hope your insurance covers Dragon Boat replacement.
Steering Arm Ripped From Steering Platform Oar Lock Damaged From Oar Undertow Steering Arm Platform Replacement

Common Causes of Steering Module Damage:

  • Oar undertow
  • Collisions

Nearly all damage to the oar lock and steering arm is due to what we like to call "oar undertow". Oar undertow occurs when a steers person makes the mistake of keeping the oar in the water when the boat is in reverse and as a result the steering oar is towed down into the water, wrapped under the steering arm and dragged towards the front of the boat. When oar undertow occurs the steering oar acts as a giant pry bar which generates an immense amount of torque strong enough to bend the oar lock, break the steering arm and rip the steering arm platform from the stern.

What to Do In The Event of Oar Undertow:

  • Have paddlers hold the boat hard immediately.
  • Return to dock and report any damage.