The Swiss Dragon Boat Team for Alumnae and Alumni of the University of London sponsored by the Swiss LSE Alumni Association

The History

2023 Races in Eglisau

Saturday, 24 June, morning: "The Terminators are back!"

Joining 76 teams and more than 1'500 participants, the London Dragons have returned to Eglisau for lots of fun, fitness, spectacle and camaraderie on and off the river Rhine. Our rookies made first contact with a dragon boat by "helping" another team out with paddlers for their early morning race. At 9:15, it was our turn. With high expectations and some possibly misplaced overconfidence, we skipped the actual training day, our boat paddled to the starting line ready to engage the competition. The Dragon Warriors this year were: Aekannsh, Alexander, Christine, Gabriella, Katherine, Filippos, Joachim, Lorissa, Menexenia, Marcel, Milena, Ming, Penny, Philippa, Sebastiaan, Sebastian, Stephanie, William and Ziba, a mix of veterans and rookies, ranging in age from the too young to the too old.

We had a surprisingly good start, catapulting our boat to the maritime equivalent of max q (maximum dynamic pressure), which paid off well towards the halfway mark. Unfortunately, the weight distribution between star- and backboard was not optimized, resulting in an ever so slight list of our boat, skillfully compensated by our steersman but severely handicapping our efforts of leaving the competing boats in our wake.

In a professional boat, the drummer is just for show. In a boat full of hyper ambitious amateurs such as the London Dragons, the drummer has some function in observing the front two paddlers, the lead strokes, and signaling their paddling cadence to the rest of the boat. The role is of the monotony of a metronome, instead our first drummer performed with the spontaneity of a Ringo Starr, which did produce some rhythmic dissonance.

We placed first in the morning round of races, in an inverted ranking. Everything is going according to plan. We are rolling up the field from behind.

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Saturday, 24 June, afternoon: "In Need for Speed"

Following our traditional extended lunch on the shaded patio of the Hirschen restaurant by the river and after having received additional instructions on the most effective paddling technique, the London Dragons were in need for speed and ready for an afternoon of blazing action. After making some tactical substitutions of positions in our boat, our increased potential was apparent on our way to the starting line. After some starting line jostling, away we were. Accommodating our many rookies, we did not execute our normal but complex starting sequence of 5 long followed by 10 fast strokes and opted to start with about a dozen strokes in cadence just above those during our mid-course cruising phase.

Synchronization between all 20 paddlers was much improved compared to the morning, finally unleashing the spirit of the Dragon Warrior in us. That spirit did not fully compensate for the exhaustion slowly creeping into our proper paddling form but our final spurt delighted everybody, us paddlers as well as our spectators. A time of 2:11:12 flashed on the scoreboard, a rather spectacular improvement from our 2:23.58 in the morning but still a far cry off our best of times. We will be back, mentally stronger and physically fitter than ever. Do you want to join us?

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2019 Races in Eglisau

Saturday, 29 June: "Dragon Warriors with Paddles"

We came out of our intensive Monday evening training with the perfectly reasonable expectation of pulling off an historic upset at Europe's oldest dragon boat competition. The Dragon Warriors this year were: Aidan, Alice, Andre, Angela, Anniek, Belinda, Boris, Carina, Dany, Hyeyoung, Lizzy, Jesse, Joachim, Julia, Marcel, Martin, Matt, Matus, Natasha, Penny, Sacha, Sid and Tina. It was let's do it again for our veterans and just do it for the first time for our freshers. Our start was splendid, like a round shot exiting a cannon muzzle. Top speed was reached within 15 seconds into the race. In keeping up with the competing boat to our right, stroke execution was harmonious. After 300 meters, however, the forward reach of the front 6 paddlers started to get precipitously short, squeezing the catch and pull of the paddlers in the engine and rear guard. Proper execution of paddling technique recovered by voice commands so that the final stretch saw good pacing until the finish line. A time of 1:41:25 flashed across the big display, an all-time record. We were ecstatic.

After counting down our starting sequence of 5 long followed by 10 fast strokes in the pre-race huddle, we were more than ready to outclass the competition in our second race in the afternoon. However, the paddling towards the starting line just didn't feel right. That vitality and extra kick of the morning were strangely absent. Maybe we were just feeling the after-effects of too much lunch and too much heat. The power drive of a well-executed starting sequence only extended for a short period into the cruise phase. A momentary desync of the drummer and the pacers rippled throughout the boat. Once we recovered our rhythm, our boat had lost more than one boat length on the competition. Stamina did not falter on the final stretch but paddling frequency was significantly lower compared to our first race resulting in a time of 1:43:24.

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Sunday, 30 June: "Mission Impossible Possible"

After a convincingly lackluster performance in the 2nd race, we needed to turn it up a notch. Fortunately, we could still reach the semi-finals. Unfortunately, to do so, our boat would need to best the fastest time of the top team from the People's Republic of China. It would be an extraordinary feat, possibly a mission impossible. That said, the London Dragons are all about the extraordinary and aspirational. Our start looked promising. The promise, however, did not survive the half-way mark when the two pacers in the front got triggered by the drummer and transitioned into a stroke frequency too high for some paddlers in the mid and rear to match. With the resulting serious bout of de-synchronization, the leads of the competing boats grew as fast as our bravado faded. With the finish line coming into sharp view, we surged for the last 100 meters but the semi-finals stayed well out of reach. With an overall time over the 2 days of 5:14:89, we placed a happy 23rd in the "Fun Open" category.

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2018 Races in Eglisau

Saturday, 23 June: "Magical Moments"

The on-the-water training on Monday evening before the competition demonstrated that our alumnae and alumni paddlers were at the very top of their game. In an era of stunning upsets, we were able and willing to produce our own. On Saturday morning, the beautiful Rhine scenery was bathed in a warm sunshine. With several newcomers, the Chief of the Boat showcased, at least that's what he thought he did, the proven paddling techniques of the Chinese teams: Paddle perpendicular to the water, arms stretched to a triangle and torso twist for stroke execution, all in absolute synchronicity with the pacing paddlers in the front of the boat. Sports cannot get anymore easier. On the way to the starting line, we practiced our new starting routine for one last time: 3 very deep and 10 very fast strokes. Certainly by now, the newcomers had fully arrived. Indeed, our start was most excellent, with the boat showing much lift and subsequent planeing before settling into a cruising rhythm. Despite some weight distribution issues between the left and right side of the boat, the alumnae and alumni held strong throughout the race. The result delighted everybody. A finishing time of 1:55:36 beautifully flashed across the scoreboard. Not since 2015 have we managed to breach the magical mark of 2 minutes.

After replenishing our protein and carbohydrate reserves through delicious tarte flambee and juicy steaks, we were ready for our next exploit. For the afternoon race, we were delighted to welcome the daughter of an alumna as our drummer. Next to being small and light, she, unfortunately, also had a tendency for wishful thinking, such as drumming at the greater cadence as the alumni and alumni could paddle. The team struggled to keep itself synchronized, especially after the half-way mark. We redeemed ourselves somewhat with a strong finish in an attempt to close on the boats before us. Hence, at least we were able stay, with 1:59:79, curtly below two minutes. The next day should prove equally eventful.



Sunday, 24 June: "To the Power of 20"

Our work for Sunday was cut out for us. With our second race the day before, the striking distance to the teams ranked before us increased to shouting distances. To increase our chances of upsetting the rankings, we switched well rested paddlers into the mid-section of our boat. Our run was well executed from the start, however, not until the finish. As the two male paddlers in front, who provide the pacing for the entire boat, became desynchronized, our speed precipitously decreased just as the finish line came into view. Better next time to let female paddlers provide harmony and perfectly synchronized pacing in the front. Fraying at the edges and gasping for air, but comforted by the power of 20 paddlers, we put the boat over the finish line in 1:51:38. It was a fantastic close to 2 days of fun on and off the water for alumnae and alumni.




2017 Races in Eglisau

Saturday, 24 June morning: "We are back"

The London Dragons are back! After being absent from the race circuit last year, the Dragons competed again in the international dragon boat competition on the river Rhine at Eglisau. The day started with more water than expected. A sudden and heavy downpour in the morning soaked the readying teams. Stirred but not shaken, our new team members completed a quick onshore training session, with the Chief of the Boat showcasing proper paddling technique and emphasizing the importance of synchronicity over high stroke rates. Our race category was aptly named "Open Fun", "Open" for encouraged gender inequality (in the other boats) and "Fun" for the degree of experience in dragon boat racing. Everybody could experience how easy paddling is as our boat cruised leisurely to the starting line. Our rookies rapidly internalized the stroke sequence of reach, catch, pull, exit and recovery. Dragon boat racing, however, is not only about technique but also about a state of mind. Hence, our loudest of battle cries at the start was an attempt to intimidate and cow the 3 competitor boats into submission. "Achtung, fertig, los" and our boat was on its way. Paced by our six paddlers in the front, an initial 10 fast and furious strokes propelled our boat forward. Somewhat puzzling how, despite our good effort, the other boats had already worked a boat length lead on us 30 secs into the race. Now the time had come for our mid-section with our strongest and bravest to take over. Enjoyment built as our paddles drove into the Rhine and our faces felt the wind intermixed with the water spray. We were on a path to greatness until our boat started to struggle mid-way with increased swell, unfortunately created mostly by ourselves, sapping our energies. We still had the opportunity for a barnstorming finish. Mobilizing our last reserves, the beat of the drum and the shouts from the spectators edged us on to the finish line. We crossed it as the 4th, and last, boat with a recorded time, somewhat on the upside, of 2:07:05.

Saturday, 24 June afternoon: "Emulate to eliminate"

Strengthened with fine pizzas in our bellies and inflated ambitions in our heads, the team was eager to show its full potential in the afternoon race. We sought to emulate the Chinese teams to eliminate our Swiss competition. The Chief reconfigured the boat for optimal racing performance with the smaller and lighter paddlers in the front and rear and the bigger and heavier paddlers in the middle. After resolving the confusion of who sits where, the London Dragons headed with renewed optimism to the start. With the echo of the starting command having barely faded away, our boat was galloping over the Rhine at maximum speed. However, the excitement of alumnae and alumni paddlers perfectly in-sync did not last past the halfway mark. Our initial ferocity bred dissonance in form and cadence. Increasingly the paddles on either and even on the same side of the boat were catching the waters at different times. After 300 meters, the boat became perceptively ever more sluggish. Through yells of "one - two - three", the team briefly rediscovered its natural rhythm and the hope of rolling up the field from behind. However, with the buoys of the finish line coming into view, exhaustion throughout the boat was starting to set in and synchronicity was again lost. Being timed at 2:05:07, we were victorious against ourselves in the morning race but not against our competitors in this race. We will be back in Eglisau next year to take on the dragon boat team from Dongguan City's Machong township, People's Republic of China, which won the competition.


2015 Races in Eglisau

27 June: "Good times"

We had some "good times" on the first day. Dragon paddlers arrived in the morning all fired up for a full day's action on and off the water. The no-shows were quickly compensated by instant recruits from another team. After the rookies received a speedy introduction on land to dragon boat paddling, our paddling technique was on full display to spectators as our 20-women/men dragon boat drove up-steam on the river Rhine to the starting line. Running against the "vae victis" team, who would eventually win our competition class, the pressure was on. Our boat, however, had a disastrous start, with significant disorganization from the very first stroke during the absolutely crucial start phase. By mid-course, one of the pacers, the front two paddlers, could not match the stroke rate of the other. The Chief, indeed, needs to get in shape again. The latent power of the engine, the heavy paddlers sitting in the mid-section, could never be fully unleashed. About 100 meters before the finish line, paddlers in all sections started to get tired and our planned final push did not materialize. Our boat finished the first forerun with a respectable but still disappointing 1:48:67. For the second forerun in the afternoon, we responded with a tactical rearrangement of paddlers in the boat and with a new starting sequence of 3 deep draws, followed by 20 quick strokes, before settling on the regular cruising stroke rate. This start sequence was not quite perfectly executed but our boat showed improved lift and nice planeing from the start. Nonetheless, during the long cruise phase, water traction in the mid and end sections of the boat was inconsistent. Despite a strong push to the finish, we crossed the line with an incomprehensible 1:48:69. Off the water, the Dragon paddlers much enjoyed the fantastic atmosphere of these annual races. By midday, the area was packed with 1'500 paddlers from 68 teams, cheered on by thousands of spectators. London Dragon territory, marked by an Union Jack, was by the river near the finish line from where we could expertly observe the performance of our competitors. These are indeed good times.

28 June: "Renewed sense for speed"

Despite some of the Dragon paddlers being in recovery mode as a result of heavy partying on Saturday night, the team was ready for an exploit in the third forerun on Sunday. We substituted in still fresh alumni paddlers from UCL and beyond with the knowledge that we needed a superhero third run to still make the half-finals. With a well executed 5/10 start sequence, we couldn't enter the race better. By mid-course, we were securely in third place. By finally unleashing some dragon power and showing a renewed sense for speed, we were closing in on the second-placed boat. Capping off the convincing run was our strongest finish. Despite the clock stopping at 1:37:98, the first two slower runs meant that we could not strut our stuff in the half-finals. We will be in action again later in the year. Unleash the dragon in you. Join the London Dragons today.


2008 Races in Biel/Bienne

Saturday, 16 August: "Power girls"

After a hard day of racing, our team is trailing the leading team from Magglingen by 1 minute after 3 heats. Taking no chances this year, legionnaires from Singapore, one of the world centers of dragon boat racing, reinforced our team, all part of the secret victory plan of the Chief of the Boat. Our first heat, nonetheless, failed to impress as the boat never really gathered sufficient momentum. The start was sluggish with paddlers in all sections of the boat achieving the all important perfect synchrony of action only after 100 meters. An attempt to catch up mid-way backfired as 100 meters before the finish line the front was out of puff. A disappointing 1:49:40 showed up on the scoreboard. The team rebounded in its next heat, when it challenged the currently leading team for the first time. Much improved skills and fighting spirit was on display as the two strokers, the lead paddlers in front of the boat, set a high pace for the first 200 meters of the race. The ever increasing pace, however, could not be maintained as the boat slipped into some disorganisation just before the finish line. Our team, nevertheless, clocked in a respectable time of 1:42:44 for the second heat. Our strongest performance was reserved for the last heat of the day. The boat had a machine gun start and the pacers, the paddlers sitting in rows 2 and 3, supported the strokers maintain a good pace. Our power girls in the middle of the boat, subsequently supported by the so-called rockets, the paddlers seated in the last two rows, digged deep into the water and propelled the boat to a top speed of 15 km/h and to the team's all-time best time of 1:40:41.

Sunday, 17 August: "Digging Deep"

Our team was rather ready at 10:00 for the first Sunday run. The day, indeed, started with a surprising "exploit". The tacticians chose again a 5/10 starting sequence, meaning out of the starting blocks with 5 long, deep strokes followed by 10 quick ones to get the boat up to speed. The team executed the strategy well and, compared to yesterday, the boat had much improved lift during the entire start phase. The boat settled smoothly into a well paced paddling rhythm maintained until the boat crossed the finish line. The result was a record breaking 1:33:55 for the run, putting us right up there with the more experienced boats. As expected, only the strong Magglingen boat was between us and first place in our class. Our plan was to beat our own record time by a couple of seconds and hope that the Magglingen crew depleted all their reserves by their super fast runs yesterday and this morning. However, our start phase did not evolve optimally and the competing team fought to a one boat length lead by the halfway mark. Accompanied with shouts of "dig deep" from the Chief, the team tried to respond by increasing the pace but were unable to do so sufficiently. Our boat crossed the finish line with a time of 1:35 compared to the superhuman 1:22 of the Magglingen boat, placing us second in our class.


2007 Races in Eglisau

Saturday, 23 June: "Fighting spirit on display"

Our team had a satisfying debut to the world of dragon boat racing. Much spirit was on display in both of Saturday's heats. Our boat was somewhat handicapped by some no-shows, only partially compensated by instant recruits. The boat had a strong start into the 1st heat. The stroke rate stabilized after 100 meters at 1/sec but at 350 meters the back of the boat got slightly desynchronised, recovering, however, quickly for the boat to clock in a time of 2:06:75. The drummer and some paddlers were exchanged for the 2nd heat, in which the team showed much improved lift and subsequent planeing during the start phase. The team kept up with the lead boat until midway when the boat's smooth run was interrupted by turbulent waters for the last 200 meters. As a result, the team couldn't match its 1st heat time, having to settle for 2:13:59.

Sunday, 24 June: "Full pull"

On day 2 of the international dragon boat races, the team had one last shot at the semi-finals. It fell a bit short but our boat's run in the 3rd heat demonstrated the latent potential of our paddlers with a record breaking time of 1:49:23. The boat got quickly up to full speed with 5 quick and deep strokes, leaving already one competitor boat behind. The team transitioned thereafter well into cruise rhythm. The middle 300 meters was executed with full pull, keeping pace with the two front-running boats. The team was, however, not able to close the gap and had to settle for 3rd place in their last heat. Both the team and our fans had two great days of racing and socialising, and everybody is very much looking forward to next year's competition.


Next action: Eglisau, River Rhine, 24/25 June 2023. Not yet a paddler? Sign up today!

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