5-26 Race day: Boat Race Part 3

Manuella, sporting the Australian flag.

The race itself could not have gone better. We transported the boats in and on two trucks. I ended up in the back of a moving-van-style vehicle with three boats and my feet dangling off the back with the doors wired partial shut while another staff member rode on top of the truck to hold the boats in place. The youth in the bus behind us acted as security. I think our little procession increased our crowd.

We got the first boats in the water around 1:00, right on time. Miraculously, they even floated. Then we had to get people on the boats. That took a little longer. The kayak style boat had a stability problem and took three people before someone got it balanced properly. While that was going on, an eel decided to come check out our launch place and sent all the youth screaming back to shore. Ten minutes and a lot of thrown rocks later, the eel was scared off and we were back in the water.
The Titanic.  Perhaps not the best name, but there isn’t ice in Vanuatu…
The fire boat launched and took a quick tour. Then it came back and they lit their mast on fire. Intentionally. As the fire squad, they decided to mark their territory and had a flame at the top of the mast. Of course, by the time we finally got around the racing, they had to add more fuel, which was done by pouring kerosene on fire. I’m pretty sure someone has told me in the past that that is a bad idea, but their other idea was to do a fire breath on it. I liked the pouring better than the plume of flame option.
The first three boats raced and raced fast. They were the more solidly constructed boats with less problems, so they moved better and held together. The fire squad used leg blo dukduk (fins) to add extra speed, but their kicked got tired part way through.
Look closely.  You can see the legs of the overboard…
Halfway through the first heat, we had a crowd of probably a hundred. By the end of the third heat, we had probably over 500, maybe pushing towards 700 people watching. That’s what I call successful promotion.
The second race was uneventful, at least for a race with 9 youth on boats made of garbage. The little literacy team’s oldest boat member was 11. I made them race on the inside so if I went swimming after them, I wouldn’t have to swim as far. I didn’t have to go swimming and they finished the race under their own power.
Lining up for the speed heat.
The third heat was where things got interesting. The refrigerator boat had a problem with taking on water. And with wobbling. And with steering. And then it had a problem with crewing. One of the guys fell over backwards and went for a swim. The boat had lost a few cans along the way, which I sent him back out for. He was already swimming, it wasn’t going to be a problem for him to go fetch the cans back to shore.
Somewhere around then one of the youth borrowed a kayak from the place we were using as an finish line and started kayaking through the race course picking up rubbish the boats were losing. I told him he was a smart guy and saving a number of people a swimming trip.
The final speed heat finished and then we went to the main stage to hand out prizes. I never managed to find sponsorship for the race, despite several promises from people. I am lucky to have resourceful coworkers who magicked up a few prizes and a sponsor came through with 50 USD at the last minute. Put it all together and re-distribute it a little and I had nine prizes, one for each boat.
Tonny’s dance moves, with a reggae paddle.
The stage had live coverage from two radio stations and the TV station of the Information and Communication Technology Day celebrations. They graciously allowed us fifteen minutes to hand out prizes, which was aired live across Vanuatu. The youth got to claim their prize and have their 30 seconds of fame, all except Tonny, the captain of the boat who lost a crew member. He got a bit more than 30 seconds when the radio announcer told him to dance on stage and he did.
We returned the youth to Wan SmolBag by bus. I stayed until the last trip and got back at 5:15, just in time for my photography field trip. (We ended up postponing the field trip because we were all too tired to do it.) I slept 13 hours on Friday night. The boats made the front page of the newspaper on Saturday morning. They were in the paper again yesterday as a promotion for GIZ. I wrote the second article, because the first one misspelled my name.

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