Dragon boat races build camaraderie

For an office team-building exercise, it’s hard to beat putting 10 co-workers in a narrow 20-foot boat with the aim of getting them to all row in unison.

The annual Macon Dragon Boat Race is basically a typical workday condensed into a 200-meter race on water. A dozen teams, mostly from local businesses, competed in the event at Lake Tobesofkee on Saturday.

The race is put on by Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Heart of Georgia and is its largest fundraiser, said Dianna Glymph, president and CEO of the organization.

“Most of our teams tell us that this is the best team-building exercise that they have for their employees,” Glymph said. “We have companies that come back every year once they start because it really does build that camaraderie and working together.”

One of the paddlers doing it for the first time was John Mallory on the Cox Communications team.

“It was a blast,” he said after the team’s first run. “It’s nothing but a pure adrenaline rush after you get the paddle in the water.”

Each team does two runs using the same two rented boats. There are actually 12 people in the boat -- the paddlers, a steersman in the rear and a drummer at the front who keeps the pace. The steersman is from the company that owns the boat, while the drummer is part of the team. The drummer watches the first two paddlers, who actually are the ones who set the pace. The drummer beats each time the first two paddlers stroke, to hopefully get the others all paddling the exact same way.

After the two runs, the two teams with the lowest combined times race for the trophy. The winner, for the fourth year in a row, was Georgia Power, edging Cox Communication in the final by about two seconds.

Most of the money is raised by the teams soliciting donations. Georgia Power also won the trophy for most money raised.

One of the teams that wasn’t a local business was Dragon Boat Atlanta, which is a team made up mostly of breast cancer survivors. They travel to dragon boat races all around the Southeast to promote breast cancer awareness.

Although the team used the provided boats for Saturday’s race, it has its own boat and regularly practices on Lake Lanier. Babsi Schlingmann, of Atlanta, is not a breast cancer survivor but supports the cause. She said she enjoys the exercise and team experience.

“It’s just fun to do something with a lot of people and when you win, you win as a team,” said Schlingmann.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.