121th Thailand International Swan Boat Championship Sat-Sun Sept 12-13, 2009. Ayutthaya, Thailand.
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21th Thailand International Swan Boat Races are scheduled to be held September 2009 (for exact weekend in September please contact TAT, Thailand) on the Chao Phraya River (River. of Kings), Bangsai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Center, near the ruins of the golden city of Ayutthaya, former capital of Siam (1349 to 1767 A.D.) Over twentyinternational teams including teams from the Peoples Republic of China, Germany, Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Singapore, Myanmar, Indonesia, England, Thailand, the United States, Australia, and the city of Hong Kong are anticipated to be compete at the 2009 World Swan Boat Championships.

2010 PHILADELHIA AREA CANOE & KAYAK RACE SCHEDULE   ......................e-mail contact address.............................Click on web link below for information on the race.
PA 31-May Philadelphia Spring Regatta 856-468-4646 chairman@swanboat.org www.swanboat.org/spring_regatta_race.html
NJ 6-Jun Woodbury Annual Kayak Regatta 856-308-4790 a.brasberger@verizon.net www.woodburybreakfastrotary.org/2009/kayakregatta.cfm
NJ 14-Jun Mantua Creek Race 856-415-0480 drbones@aol.com www.swanboat.org/mantua_creek_race.html
PA 20-Jun Tiadaghton Elm Canoe & Kayak Race 570-745-7367 jrankin@pct.edu www.eteamz.com/telm
PA 12-Jul Philadelphia Canoe Club Open House Race 856-468-4646 chairman@swanboat.org www.swanboat.org/open_house_race.html
NJ 22-Aug Woodbury Creek Race 609-707-1872 patricia.caughey@thomsonreuters.com   www.swanboat.org/woodbury_creek_race.jpg
PA 19-Sep Governor Printz Race 610-532-5105 jaclyn_rhoads@yahoo.com www.dcva.org/upcoming.html
PA 26-Sep Philadelphia Fall Classic 856-468-4646 chairman@swanboat.org www.swanboat.org/fall_classic_race.html
NJ 16-Oct Cooper River Halloween Races   chairman@swanboat.org www.swanboat.org/cooper_river_races.html
NJ 21-Nov Delaware & Raritan Canal Race 973-226-6672 dgerman@real-world-systems.com www.hicom.net/~danmar/DandR-CR.html

Swan Boats are long narrow round-bottom boats with their bows being intricately carved upturned mythological swan heads and the sterns their flowing tailsThere are two categories of Swan Boats:

 

1. Traditional Category: 96-foot, 5,000-pound long-boats (some carved from a single trunk of Thakien tree) manned by 50 paddlers, one or two paddling steermen, and a lead paddler who periodically turns around and shouts encouragement while pounding signals against the boat with the shaft of his paddle.

2. International Category: 48-foot, 2,000-pound all teak boats powered by 20 women or men paddlers using handle-less teakwood paddles (54" long, 6" X 9" blade), plus a whistler for cadence, and a paddling steersperson who uses a handle-less 71" paddle. Swan Boats race four abreast over a 650-meter course. Long-boat racing has been a tradition in Southeast Asia since A.D. 1350. "The United States Men's Team (boat #4) [picture above] sprints neck-and-neck to a 3rd place finish behind the wining Thai Team (boat #2) and the 2nd place singapore team (boat #3) in the finals of the World Championships October 11,
2535 (1992) on the Chao Phraya River under the, Rama IX Bridge, Bangkok, Thailand." This U.S. team was the first non-oriental entry ever to make the finals in the 700-year history of this event.

 

Royal Barge: Narai Songsuban Rama IX Royal Barge pictured above with 50 paddlers, 2 steersmen, 7 chat (tiered state umbrella) holders, 6 guards, a signalman, a flagman and the royal family. This royal barge was build during the reign of Thailand's current monarch, his Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

 

1993 UNITED STATES MEN'S AND WOMEN'S SWAN BOAT TEAM AT THE RACE SITE AT THE BANGSAI ROYAL FOLK ARTS & CRAFTS CENTER, AYUTTHAYA, THAILAND
Women's Team
: Carol Arreola, Michelle Campillo, Connie Canales, Katy Curtis, Carol Wilcox, Diane Darval, Mary Ellen Houston, Kate Jonsson, Marcia King, Julie Leong, Missy Mowat, Tracy Selling, Tammy Smith, Di Thomas, Vanessa Weiss, Nicole Wilcox, Dana Darval, Lisa Livingston; Steerswoman: Kainoa Forrest; Whistler/Coach: Greg Wilcox; Men's Team: Serge Corbin, Calvin Hassel, Ken Ostrowski, Dave Anderson, Jeff Kolka, Bill Anderson, Dan Charleson, Chip Coward, Joe Johnson, Mark Zollitch, Ian Adamson, Bruce Hartzler, John Casale, Jeff Stevens, Tom Ostrowski, Bob Silvernail, John Edwards, Geoff Briggs, Bruce Stewart, Everett Crozier, Bruce Braman, John Zeigler, Mike Fairchild, Terry Crannell, Andy Ramelmeier, Ed Pilsitz, Zack Greer, Joe Shaw, Mike Cichanowski, Gerry Cichanowski, Tom Nicoletti, Dave Dux, Ralf Riello; Steerswoman: Kainoa Forrest; Whistler: Boonyaporn Dumrak; Coach: Glen Green.

1993 Bronze Medal Winning United States Women's Swan Boat Team -- Awesome!

Note: The pictures on this web site are high resolution pictures. The time it takes to download these pictures depends on the speed of your modem and the speed of your computer. Please be patient, you will be rewarded for the wait. There are no blank picutures on this site, if you get a blank picture and your browser indicates that it is finished loading, click on your browser's "reload" or "refresh" button -- may require several reloadings. Some of the prettiest pictures are at the end of this web site.

 

**Team members will be taken to the Ancient City of Ayutthaya on the banks of the "River of Kings" to celebrate the national festival of Loy Krathong which takes place during the first full moon in the 12th lunar month (22 November 1999). Thousands of decorated miniature rafts shaped in the form of lotus blossoms from banana leaves, illuminated by candles and burning incense, float down the rivers of Thailand. These "krathong" are filled with flowers and coins as a symbolic gift drift on the lifegiving Mother Water to the sea:

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*** The Swan Boat Celebration Banquet is the most luxurious of all the Long-Boat/Dragon Boat celebration parties in the world. It is held at the conclusion of the races in an authentic replica of a traditional Thai village spanning two acres of the Bangsai Royal Folk Arts & Crafts Center. After
being offered a tremendous selection of oriental delicacies and beverages, the teams are treated to traditional Thai dancers in traditional costumes and then serenaded by some of Thailand's most famous contemporary Thai singers. The evening then turns into one huge international block
party, with singing and dancing by all
:

--------

----------- ^ Thai Rock Star at banquet

^ Singapore Women's Team performing skit at Welcome dinner.

^ Traditional Thai costumes and the gracious Thai gesture, the "Wai" greeting.

^ U.S. athletes partying with a member of the Italian women's team.

^ American paddler showing trophy to local Thai beauties.

Thailand International Swan Boat Races November 27-28, 2004:
The Tourism Authority of Thailand is graciously picking up for most meals for 5 nights/6 days, and is providing a team bus for transportation to and from the airport, hotel, race venue and sight-seeing trips for the American Men's and Women's Swan Boat Team. Wives/husbands of team members will be offered discount hotel rooms, transportation on team bus, free admission to the race venue and ability to purchase tickets to the reception and celebration banquets. Between 1978-96 the exchange rate in Thailand was 24 Baht/dollar. Currently the exchange rate is around 40 Baht/ dollar (e.g. a hotel room costing $100 in the United States, goes for around $20 in Thailand). Round trip airfare to Thailand including earning frequent flyer mileage will cost approximately $1000 per person. A checklist of helpful trip tips is provided towards the end of this homepage. ................

........

 
 
 
Mrs. Juthamas Siriwan
 
-as TAT Governor
 

Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor realizing that participating in world events would contribute to tourism promotion and encourage good international relations, arranged for the first international swan boat race to be held on the Chao Phraya River near the Rama IX Bridge, Bangkok on September 17-18, 1988. -Khun Jutamas Siriwan continues to be an enthusiastic supporter of the International Swan Boat Festival.

American Men's Swan Boat Team at the 1997 Swan Boat World Championships:
Greg Barton, Serge Corbin, Jeffery Kolka, Roland Muhlen, Goeffry Briggs, John Edwards, Dave Anderson, John Casale, David Shepard, Michael Cichanowski, Richard Plumlee, Daniel Hassel, Michael Olson, Neal Weisner-Hanks, James Heil, Allan Rudquist, Frederick Hansen, Gustave Lamperez, Richard Plumlee, John Zeigler, Kai Hansen, Billie Rosehill (steersman), and Glen Green (whistler). This team was a true representative of the United States -- comprised of nationally ranked Canoers, Kayakers and Outriggers from the states of Kansas, Ohio, Michigan, Montana, Wisconsin, New York, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Washington, Indiana, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Florida, Missouri, New Hampshire, California, Illinois, and Hawaii.

AMERICAN SWAN BOAT ASSOCIATION's Track Record:

YEAR

UNITED STATES TEAM

MEN'S FINISH

WOMEN'S FINISH

1988

30 athletes from 4 states

7th

1991

38 athletes from 8 states

4th

1992

63 athletes from 13 states

3rd

2nd

1993

85 athletes from 18 states

5th (3rd fastest time)

3rd

1994

50 athletes from 10 states

3rd

1st (record time)

1995

52 athletes from 9 states

3rd

2nd

1997 23 athletes from 20 states 5th  
1998   ____  
1999   4th  
2000   5th Mixed 1st
2001   6th  
2002   6th  
2003   7th  
2004   _____  
2005   _____  

2006

 

The American Swan Boat Association, Inc. (ASBA):

Established in January 1989 is a non-profit charitable amateur sports organization founded to: (1) foster national and international amateur sports competition in Swan Boat racing, (2) create and foster friendship, understanding, camaraderie, cooperation and teamwork among the different peoples who practice and participate in the sport of Swan Boat racing, (3) promote equal opportunity in the sport of Swan Boat racing regardless of race, religion, age, sex, color, or national and ethnic origin, (4) support and develop amateur athletes for Swan Boat competitions, and (5) work toward having Swan Boat /Dragon Boat racing recognized as an official Olympic sport. For further information contact ASBA Chairperson, Glen Forest Green at e-mail address: chairman@swanboat.org 
 or Fax: 856-468-0036

"WORLD SWAN BOAT CHAMPIONS" -- 1994 U.S. Women's Team

Jaime Arreola, Carol Arreola, Kainoa Forrest, Darcie Wilcox, Caroline impson, Laura Beemer, Catheine Curtis, Mary Ellen Houston, Dianna Flores, Tamara Smith, Vcki Kekuawela, Susan Wilson, Valerie Welch, Heide Macomber, Monique Seager, Lisa Livingston, Tricia Nagatani, Kalae Javellana, Michelle Campillo, Shelia Beahm, Stephanie Titus, Cathleen Whitford, Debbie Cheever, Kathy Gasuad; Steersman: Billy Philpotts; Whistler/Coach: Gaylord Wilcox.

In 1994 the United States Team had its best year ever at Thailand's International Swan Boat Races. Composed of 20 paddlers, one steersman and one whistler, crews under the meticulous leadership of American Swan Boat Chairman Glen Green, have represented the U.S. every year since the races began in 1988. Due to some uncertainty concerning Thailand's continuing its gracious sponsorship, crew organization had a late start in '94. Finally when in late summer the official word came that the Tourism Authority of Thailand would be hosting the race as usual (hotel, opening & closing parties, most meals and transportation provided) in mid-November, phones and faxes along the East Coast and out in Hawaii started going off. When the lines had all cleared and the last passport picked up ten minutes before closing the day before the flight, a near bear minimum 44 paddlers had been scraped together one more-time.

Previous year's 1993 Hawaiian Swahines
The Women were similar to 1993's bronze medalists - an all Hawaiian crew self-dubbed the Swahines {Swan ahines (Women)} with ten returnees. Two-thirds of the team came from Kauai (the rest from Oahu) under the tutelage of Hanalei Canoe Club's veteran outrigger coach and steerer Kainoa Forrest. Practicing together for a few weeks enabled these ocean- goers to familiarize themselves with paddling on only one side and getting use to the kayak paddle grip needed to hold the large handleless teakwood Swan Boat paddles. What couldn't be practiced in Hawaii was the crowed seating conditions of long-boats and the tippyness of these boats due their perfectly round bottom -- tippyness which is magnified by the pendulum affect ofthe tall intricately carved slender mythical swan's head on the bow of the boat. With only 21 women, it was decided to move Kainoa from steerswoman to paddler and put in the Men's steersman Billy Philpotts (most southeast Asian women's teams use male steersman). The Team, averaging 138 pounds per person, looked about as strong as last year's, and quite possibly better.

In the first heat the Swahines drew Taiwan and awesome Thailand who has raced undefeated for the past three years. Off to a great start behind stroker Kathy Witford, the United States held a half boat length lead 50 meters into he 650 meter race. But the Thai Women were just getting going and at 100 meters, as the Americans settled from a 96 to an 88 stroke per minute count, Thailand with a 92 stroke rate caught and quickly motored by the Americans. Taiwan on the other side was now also moving on the Americans and by 200 meters had eased by, using a slower stroke and timing that was unimpressive. At this point whistler Gaylord Wilcox called for the first of a few power twenties. But unlike last year's finals when such calls had moved the crew past a Taiwan Team into third, the boat was unable to make any significant dent into the leads. Thailand finished 16 seconds ahead with a time 5 seconds faster then in last year's finals and Taiwan ahead by 5 seconds -- the Swahines were a stunned and disappointed lot.

Hawaiian Outrigger Billy Philpotts shows the proper way to steer (poke)
a Swan Boat using both paddle and feet
-- if a foreign team doesn't have
a poker on their squad, Thailand will provide a native steerer for them.

As for the men, the crew consisted of American Canoe Association surfski and United States Canoe Association marathon paddlers and Billy Philpotts, a Hawaiian "poker" (outrigger steersman). A few of these addlers had been alternates on last year's impressively credentialed team. Although last year's 1993 United States team included several national champions and Olympic paddlers it inexplicably failed to make the finals. With half the crew over 40, few of this year's squad would have made '93 team. But averaging 168 pounds per man and with good swan boat experience dating from 1991, they were determined to prove themselves. After 3 days of practice on the Chao Phraya River at the Bang Sai Arts & Crafts Center, an hour north of Bangkok, the newcomers had blended well with the veterans and coach Glen had settled into the only position he'd never sat in previously -- whistler. Having to win their heat to go directly to the semi-finals and avoid either Taiwan or Singapore in a repechage, the U.S. Men successfully turned back Brunei by four seconds, and were feeling as high as the women were low after the first day of competition.On the bus ride back to hotel Glen held a strategy session with Kainoa and Gaylord. He showed them the video of the women's team he had taken from a motor launch he had rented. After some discussion it was agreed that the power of the Hawaiian women could be more efficiently used if their stroke was slowed while burying the paddles deeper in the water and using more of the back in the pull. Being the outstanding athletes that they were the, Hawaiian women had little difficulty implementing these suggestions. In the repechage Sunday morning the boat felt good at an 80 stoke pace as they easily beat Hong Kong by over a minute. By late afternoon the competition had been narrowed down to the final four and race for the gold medal was between the Thai national team, the Singapore women who bested the United States last year, the Hawaiians, and their meniscus in the first race, Taiwan. Following a great start, the Hawaiians and the Thai farm workers from Phichit Province pulled away evenly at 50 meters. Unlike previous races, the Americans gave no ground at 100 meters and were actually up a seat. For the next 200 meters the positions stayed the same, with Gaylord ready to call a power twenty if the Thais made a move. But none was needed, and in the last half of the race the Swahines gradually opened up their lead with their steady 80 rate, ending with a sprint the last 50 meters to win by nearly 3 seconds. The time was 2:56.71, the fastest women's time ever recorded in a Swan Boat, a time only five of the twelve men's crews were able to better.

1994 American Men's Swan Boat Team (Bronze Medalists) -- Brian Masters, Tom Ostrowski, Bob Silvernail, John Edwards, John Zeigler, Andy Ramelmeier, Ed Pilsitz, Zack Greer, Tom Nicoletti, Pat Reilly, David Thomas, Blake Conant, Chip Coward, Michael Spalding, Billy Balding, Robert Kaden, Paul Ross, Bob Middleton; Steersman: Billy Philpotts; Whistler/Coach: Glen Green.

Earlier that afternoon, the Men lined up with Thailand, Macau and Brunei in the semi's, trying to be only the 2nd U.S. crew in 7 years to make the finals. Lead paddler, 148 pound Honoluluan Billy Balding with continuing verbal feedback from paddlers Chip Coward, John Edwards and John Silvernail kept the crew at a steady pace in the
high 70's. The crew was in the thick-of-things, with the Thais holding a slight lead and Brunei lurking close behind.
Glen called "100 meters to go" and the crew turned it up a notch and closed a little, finishing a half-second back, the closest an American team has ever been to Thailand.

After problems last year the starting procedures for these races were changed for the better. In past years the starting fficial would shout "Are You Ready"..., "Ra Wang" ("Get Set" in Thai)..., then a pause and the starting horn would sound. Many of the teams would start on the "Ra Wang" getting a jump. Getting your boat ahead of the bow waves of the other 3,500 pound (including crew) Swan Boats is a tremendous advantage. Myanmar each year tactically moves all of their paddlers up one seat so that the boat rides bow heavy to surf these bow waves. This year the "Ra Wang" command was eliminated so that the horn couldn't be anticipated with any certainty.
The only downside is that the crews have to remain hunched over with their paddles which are buried in the water for what seems to be an unbearably long period of time while waiting for a horn that could sound any second (the wait is due to the officials trying to line up the boats as one or another boat inevitably drifts out of lane or over the starting line).

In the finals the Americans were lined up next to fearsome Myanmar (Burma), who has dominated every race in the last two years. The Myanmar paddlers were slim in stature with bodies hard as rocks, each weighing under 145 pounds. The "Are You Ready" at the starting line dragged on for over ten minutes under the scorching sun -- then the horn sounded! Using a blistering stroke, probably somewhere in the high 90s, Myanmar's 48 foot long craft was instantly gone off the line and the race was for 2nd. The U.S. men suffering from cramps from being hunched over did not get a strong first pull at the horn. Fifty yards from the starting line Myanmar was up five seats on the United States and Thailand up one. The U.S. strength was however returning, they were stroking in almost perfect unison and the boat was running well -- being marathon paddlers the goal would be to keep the pressure on
and out endure the Thais over the 650 meter course. Glen from his perch on the bow kept an eagle eye on the Thai team, every time their whistler signal for a surge, Glen would immediately counter with a call for the American's to dig even deeper
. The Americans responded in kind to every power piece the Thais threw at them. The Americans were gradually beginning to inch up on the Thais and were even with 100 meters to go when the Thais put on their all-or-nothing sprint, just too much for the Americans
to match -- two seconds was the difference. Final results: 1st-Myanmar 2:37.34, 2nd-Thailand 2:47.43, 3rd-U.S.A. 2:49.80, 4th-Taiwan 3:04.62, 5th-Brunei, 6th-Canada, 7th-Macau, 8th-Singapore,
9th-Hong Kong, 10th-Italy, 11th-Cathay.

At the awards ceremony banquet Myanmar, eager to trade and loaded with shirts, soon had half the Americans wearing their gear. The U.S. warmups were much sought after, but hard to come by. The Swahine dance team won the best dancers prize, and all in all it was a banner year for the Americans.

 

1992 First Place Thai Farmers Women's Swan Boat Team performing skit at the Welcome Banquet (below):

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1992 United States Men's and Women's Swan Boat Team:
Men's Team: Ian Adamson, Terry Crannell, Gary Colton,
George Roideau, Glenn Wilhide, Dave Jensen, Brian Cockrum, Ron Shepard, Charles David, Lee Robinson, Chip Coward, Brian Masters, Stuart Messur, Andy Ramelmeier, Tom Ostrowski, Jerry Patton, Ken Ostrowski, Doug Keiper, Pat Reilly, Dave Wise, Bill Hardesty, Ricky French, Tom Nicoletti, Joe Ervin, Charles Hall, Jeffrey Miller; Steersman: Glen Green; Whistler: Boonyaporn Dumrak; Women's Team: Kent Gladstone, Josephine Bowdlar, Nancy Shelhorse, Maureen Donnelly, Terry Waldspurger, Janice Rone, Kathy Jensen, Daphne Heed, Susan Moslow, Pamela Boteler, Janet Whitaker, Elizabeth Pennisi, Karen Zeller, Cathy Rowand, Jennifer Hughes, Lydia Calnan, Mary Hannan, Ruth Anne McCreash, Mary Lynch, Kimberly Nagle, Christine Edwards, Beth Bogard; Steersman: Dave Armstrong; Whistler: Mary Wong.

1992 World Swan Boat Championships,
Rama IX Bridge, Chao Phraya River,
Bangkok:
With 300 meters to go in the final race, whistles blowing, crowds cheering, signalmen yelling, water splashing, paddles churning and the U.S. team down one boat length to the Thailand team; dead even with the team from mainland China, U.S. coach/steersman, Glen Green yells "SPRINT!"
The sprint command is relayed up the 22 person 48 foot
Swan Boat through the din by the designated shouters Andy Ramelmeier and Ron Shepard to lead paddlers, Jerry Patton and Chip Coward who increase the cadence from 72 to 78 strokes per minute. At the bow Boonyaporn Dumrak immediately matches her whistle signals with the downward plunge into the water of the lead paddler's blades; the rest of the team powerfully pick up the pace. This is the Thailand International Swan Boat Races being held on the Chao Phraya River in the city of Krung Thep (Bangkok). Date: 4:09 P.M., Sunday, October 11, 2535 {1992}.

The U.S. team has never been called on to sprint in the
competition before, so there is an air of anticipation as the USCA paddlers dig down
. The Chinese team
maintains a blistering stroke rate of 96, slightly down from their 102 off the line,
and are gradually pulling away from the U.S. boat. A
blistering pace considering that the paddle is straight shafted and handleless, made of rough cut teak, weighs several pounds, and has a blade ares 50% larger than a standard USCA marathon paddle. This Guangzhou Province Team from mainland China was fresh off of a 4th place finish in the World Dragon Boat Championships in Hong Kong in June. All the boats are fighting a strong current on this rain swollen upstream course, but the Chinese seem to have an advantage, a light team and paddling upstream in the lane closest to the shore -- out of the main current and clear of the large clumps of water hyacinth floating downstream. The U.S. team is a relatively heavy team and their boat is taking on water -- should the call go out for the designated bailers, Bill Hardesty, and Lee Robinson to spring into action? But every one of the paddles is needed to be powering through the water at all times to keep at the very least from losing ground. To complicate matters, the U.S. team has to steer a slalom course around the clumps of water hyacinth in order to avoided getting their paddles tangled in the weeds, but that means more distance to cover!

When the U.S. men's team arrived just four days ago it had never practiced as a team before. In fact outside of the steerer, the signalwoman, the two lead paddlers and one of the designated bailers, none of the 29 paddlers on the team had even been in or seen a Swan Boat before. The team started out by sitting in two rows on the dock and practicing with the addles turned upside down in order to learn the stroke style. This brought chuckles from the other teams watching from the sidelines. These teams had been training several hours a day for many months. However what the U.S. team lacked in Oriental-Long-Boat experience they made up in properly developed muscle groups and composure under pressure developed from logging thousands of practice hours and hundreds of races in canoes and kayaks.

 

The United States 1991 Men's Swan Boat Team: Todd Roadman, Paul Facteau, Dave Armstrong, Erik Werner, Scott Jacobs, Steve Martin, Jim Bagnell, Joe Shaw, Rich Clark, Dave Thomas, John Diller, Brian Bellas, Dale Krapf, Gaylord Wilcox, Dick Leone, Steve Baker, Chip Coward, Tommy Holmes, Jim Goochee, Jerry Patton,
Bill Hardesty; Steersman: Glen Green; Whistler: Boonyaporn Dumrak.

In the three days prior to the competition the U.S. men's
team quickly picked up the traditional Thai stroke consisting of a complete back-raise while pulling the paddle through the power phase in an almost vertical position {using the back and abdominal muscles as the major source of power with secondary support from the biceps, triceps and latissimus dorsi (lats)} -- the best way to move 5,630 pounds of men and boat. Seventeen International teams competed in this year's event. The countries of Australia, Hong Kong, Italy, Netherlands, Singapore, Macau, People's Republic of China, Philippines, Thailand and the United States each sent one or more teams. The chuckles by the other teams ceased when the American team worked its way through the competition one-by-one. The U.S. team first beat the teams from Italy and Netherlands, then Australia and Macau followed by Hong Kong and the Philippines. During each heat, all the way to the finals, the American Team got stronger and stronger as they learned the technique and worked together as a team.Now with 200 meters to go, the Thai team has taken a two boat length lead. The U.S. team needs to make its move soon and call on whatever reserves remain in their aching muscles. It is going to be tough to catch the Thai boat which contains the best military paddlers from the Thepnorasingha Long-Boat Team, winning 50 of its last 74 races since 1985. From the very start the Thai Team jumped ahead of everyone. The Thai Team is the smallest and lightest team in the competition, with of course the perfect Thai stroke; their conditioned abdominal muscles providing the power, complimented with quick hand speed to grind out a unwavering balletic 84 strokes per minute.

Considering everything, the American team also had a very good start, with all the blades buried deep in the water, chins on the knees and the first stroke, long and deep, and in perfect unison, finishing with the backs beyond the vertical. The second, third, fourth and fifth stokes were also long and deep, choo-chooing up quickly to 74 strokes a minute. The U.S. boat led both China and Singapore out of the blocks. The national team of Singapore which finished 2nd in the Singapore World Invitational Dragon Boat Races June 7, 1992 and 6th in the 1992 International Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival June 14, quickly established a synchronous cruising rate of 78 stokes per minute and has edged into second place at the three-quarter mark, holding off the charging Chinese team.

Only 150 meters to go, the final stretch, it is now Do or Die -- the call goes out from the U.S. Steersman: "SPRINT-SPRINT-SPRINT"! This time the size, power, and endurance of the United States Canoe Association paddlers pays off. The U.S. paddlers dig deeper and pulled harder while maintaining their rate of 78 stokes per minute and still maintaining almost perfect unison (maybe wearing those fluorescent arm bands paid off!) and they started to pull on the field.

With 100 meters to go the U.S. team has narrowed the
distance between them and the Chinese boat to a 1/4
boat length. Singapore is only one boat length ahead
and the Thais just in front of them. The key to a
successful sprint in an Oriental-Long-Boat is to not lose
blade depth and stroke length when the stroke rate is
raised. The U.S. team is maintaining the blade depth!

 

A sudden monsoon stikes half-way through the 1988
final race.
(U.S. team is second from the right).

With 50 meters to go all the boats are now into a full sprint. The U.S. boat has drawn dead even with the Chinese boat, but the Chinese aren't backing down. The Thai boat and the Singapore boat are maintaining an advantage, but the U.S. team is closing the gap. The finish line can be clearly seen by the steersmen, but not by the paddlers who are lost in their own world of their bodies, racked with pain from lactic acid overload, heads down, straining every muscle on their frames to get that extra ounce of pull. It is hard to believe that this same scenario has replayed itself on this same river hundreds of times over the past seven centuries. In order to hone the rowing skills of soldiers of the "Kingdom of Sukhothai (ancient Siam--A.D.1292) for their constant battles with Myanmar (Burma) and Kampuchea (Cambodia) narrow slender boats with projecting bows crafted in the form of mythical creatures, such as a hongsa (mythical swan-like creature) and the naga mythical serpentine creature) were raced against each other in organized competition. This all happened two hundred years before Columbus encountered the Americas.

Twenty-five meters to go, temples pounding, biceps burning, back muscles straining, the U.S. Boat made its final move, it however looks like it will be impossible to catch Thailand and Singapore, but can the United States pass the Chinese? The Chinese are still paddling at 96 strokes-per-minute, the U.S. increases its pace to 80! (If power and form is maintained, increasing the stroke rate will increase boat speed; if the stroke rate is too high, slowing it down will cause the boat to slow down.) The Chinese were at their maximum stroke rate.

All bedlam was breaking loose. The crowd is going wild, whistlers are more shrilled,
groans are coming from the paddlers, the
race announcer can be heard over the
loudspeaker:... "U.S.A!"... "U.S.A!"...
"CHINA!"... "CHINA!"... "U.S.A.!"... "CHINA!" ... "U.S.A!"... "CHINA!"
It's going to be close. The United States team is already the first non-oriental entry ever to make the finals in the 700 year history of this event, but can they get 3rd and take home a trophy? It looks like the Chinese team isn't going to give an inch -- but wait -- some of the paddlers in the Chinese boat are glancing over at the U.S. boat. A major mistake by the Chinese? (Looking at another boat does not slow the other boat down, it only breaks concentration and slows your boat down.) The Thai team has already crossed the finish line first in a time of 2 minutes 25.75 seconds. Singapore finishes 2nd in a time of 2.32.08. (Race time is officially recorded when "the projecting bow of the boat crosses the finish line and the boat's crew is intact.") From the vantage point of the steersman it's too close to call as the Chinese and American Boats cross the finish line neck-'n-neck. It isn't until 5 minutes later when the U.S. team paddled past the score board that the results of the race can be seen. The almost simultaneous cheers by all the U.S. team members is the indication that "we are the 3rd best Team
in the World!"
The American team has crossed the
finish line in a time of 2.37.03 with the People's Republic
of China team following in a time of 2.39.90.

 

Just competing as an athlete in front of tens-of-thousands of cheering spectators in World Competition and the pride you get knowing that you are the reason the U.S. flag is flying alongside the flags of the other nations is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but representing your country while the rest of the world is watching is the best feeling of all -- it doesn't get much better than this!

The 1992 U.S. men's team was a true American team with most being members of the United States Canoe Association. They represented the states of Washington, Colorado, New ampshire, Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, California, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Indiana, and Kansas.

 

Her Majesty Queen Sirikit greets two future swanboat paddlers.  

In Honor of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit's sixtieth birthday,
women teams were invited to compete this year for the first time ever. The U.S. Women's team was made up of rowers and canoers from the mid-Atlantic area of the United States. They trained together as a group since early spring of this year in an old Dragon Boat moored in Baltimore Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland. USCA paddlers on the women's team included Kathy Jensen, Daphne Heed, Jan Whitaker, Nancy Shelhorse and the Steersman/Coach Dave Armstrong. The American women soundly beat the women's teams from Italy, Singapore and Hong Kong in the preliminary races. However they met their match when they raced against the Thai women's team made up of farm workers from Wat Khainao Village in Phichit Province. In the finals the Thai women's team won the competition in a time of 3 minutes 0.76 seconds. The U.S. women's team finished 2nd in a time of 3 minutes 17.28 seconds, followed by Singapore in 3.21.10 and Hong Kong in 3.33.65.

----

The hairstyle of Siamese women at the turn of the century
and a rare black Thai swan.

1993 World Swan Boat Championships:

The 1993 U.S. men's team was arguably the strongest paddling team ever assembled from America to compete in Swan Boat or Dragon Boat Racing...

1993 American Men's Swan Boat Team (above) -- Serge Corbin, Calvin Hassel, Ken Ostrowski, Dave Anderson, Jeff Kolka, Bill Anderson, Dan Charleson, Chip Coward, Joe Johnson, Mark Zollitch, Ian Adamson, Bruce Hartzler, John Casale, Jeff Stevens, Tom Ostrowski, Bob Silvernail, John Edwards, Geoff Briggs, Bruce Stewart, Everett Crozier, Bruce Braman, John Zeigler, Mike Fairchild, Terry Crannell, Andy Ramelmeier, Ed Pilsitz, Zack Greer, Joe Shaw, Mike Cichanowski, Gerry Cichanowski, Tom Nicoletti, Dave Dux, Ralf Riello; Steerswoman: Kainoa Forrest; Whistler: Boonyaporn Dumrak; Coach: Glen Green

It's the year 2536 and it is the final race of the men's World Swan Boat Champions -- with 200 meters to go Thailand's "A" team in lane 3 starts to sprint, which is matched in kind by the Thai "B" team in lane 4 and the Singapore team in lane one. These teams are all paddling forty-eight foot teakwood Swan Boats which (including the paddlers) weigh over three tons apiece. A tremendous pressure wave is created by the boats as they charge down the 650 meter race course. In lane two the boat paddled by the national team of Myanmar (formerly know as Burma) feels this surging bow wave and surfs off of it while throwing in a sprint of their own at 95 strokes per minute -- a phenomenal stroke rate considering that a Swan Boat paddle has a 25% larger surface area than a typical bent shaft USCA paddle and three times the weight. Even though long-boat racing is Myanmar's national sport, this was the first time that they have competed in a World Swan Boat Championship. The Burmese paddlers have been training together six hours a day for the past three months -- were a lean muscular group -- not a paddler on their 22 man team weighing more than 135 pounds. The Myanmar team also did something seldom seen in boat racing -- they moved their paddlers forward two seats so that the boat would be bow heavy. They used this setup to surf the bow waves of other boats who tried to pass them. For this strategy to work it is imperative for the boat to get an immediate lead.

 

50-man Naga (mythical serpentine creature) Boats

In Southeast Asia centuries are marked since the birth of Buddha, hence last year (1993) was the year 2536. A team of 49 men and 35 women from America also made their presence know at these championships. The American Men's Team was made up of ACA and USCA marathon, sprint and outrigger paddlers from the states of Washington, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Indiana, Michigan, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia, and Hawaii. A total of twenty international teams were competing on this warm Sunday afternoon on the Chao Phraya River ("River of Kings") in Ayutthaya, Thailand [November 23rd, 1993.] Countries participating included the U.S., Thailand, Hong Kong, Peoples Republic of China, Australia, Brunei, Italy, Singapore, Macau, Myanmar (Burma), Taiwan, and Malaysia.

Setting the pace for the U.S. men's Swan Boat team was the world's best marathon canoer -- Serge Corbin 14 time winner of the 70 mile General Clinton Race (the worlds largest flatwater endurance race), 17 time winner of the 120 mile three stage International La Classique International de Canots de la Mauricie (the oldest long distance canoe race in North America), and 8 time winner of the 120 mile AuSable River Canoe Marathon (the world's longest non-stop canoe race - holds the course record in a time of 14 hours 20 minutes.) Other U.S. team members were top finishers at the 1993 United States Canoe Association National Championships, including 5 time United States national single canoe champion< Calvin Hassel who finished 1st in C-1 Men's & 1st in C-2 mixed; Bruce Braman who finished 2nd in C-2 Aluminum; Joe Johnson 3rd in Mixed Master's; John Edwards 3rd C-2 in Standard; Tom Ostrowski 3rd in C-2 Senior's; Ken Ostrowski
4th in C-2 Men's; Everett Crozier 4th in C-2 Senior's; John Casale 5th in C-2 Men's; Joe Shaw 2nd in ICF kayak; Mark Zollitch Olympic Kayaker and 2nd place finisher in the Great American Knockout; Bruce Hartzler Olympic High Kneeler; Ian Adamson Hawiian Ironman competitor and wildwater racer; Geoff Briggs 2nd in the Pro Boat Class at the Washington State Games and 3rd in a single cane at the World Master Games;Dan Charleson 5th in the North American Triple Crown Ultra Marathon, Jeff Kolka 2nd in the North American Triple Crown and 4th in C-2 Pro's at the USCA nationals; Kainoa Forrest one of the best women outrigger paddlers in Hawaii who steered the Swan Boats for both the men's and women's team at these championships; ICF paddler Chip Coward; whistler Eady Green; team manager Andy Ramelmeier; and team coach Glen Green with 11 years of Dragon Boat/Swan Boat racing experience.

 

Siamese twins: Reed Hunter Green & Cliff Walker Green

 

Two practice sessions were held in the United States before leaving for Thailand -- one in a war canoe in New Paltz, New York on the Wallkill River and one in a Dragon Boat at the Philadelphia Canoe Club on the Schuylkill River. The U.S. men's team arrived early in Thailand to get three full days of practice at the race site in Swan Boats.

On Saturday in their first heat of the race the United States team showed its strength. The U.S. team paddled a good deep stroke with the blade completely buried in the water at 70 strokes per minute. The U.S. team paddled together in remarkable unison (probably from the years of paddling with partners in canoes.) Paddling with thirteen alternates the U.S. team blew away the competition -- posting a time of 2 minutes 50 seconds, beating the People's Republic of China by 32 seconds, Hong Kong by 34 seconds and Singapore by 35 seconds. These were significant margins considering that the race was only 650 meters long. The U.S. time was 7 seconds faster than the time recorded by the Thailand "A" team in their heat and 10 seconds faster than Thailand "B's" recorded time. Myanmar did set the standard by finishing in a time of 2 minutes 42 seconds in their heat, but they were not paddling with alternates. The tide was not a factor on the times since the Chao Phraya River at Ayutthaya is one hundred miles upstream from the Gulf of Thailand and the first heats for the men's races were all concluded within 90 minutes of one another. The Chao Phraya River was relatively calm on Saturday and weed free. At this point in time things were looking good for the United States.

The U.S. team's first heat victory gave them an automatic bye to the semifinal's. Most observers believed that the U.S. team would mount a strong challenge to the two power houses, Myanmar and Thailand, the favorites to win these championships. The United States Team was man-for-man stronger than the U.S. team that placed 3rd in 1992 at the International Swan Boat Races. The 1992 U.S. team was the first non-oriental team to ever have made it to the finals in Swan Boat Racing.

In order to advance to the final's, however, the U.S. team needed to place first or second in the semi's. There was unfortunately one boat at the race site that was particularly slow -- and this boat was one of the two boats assigned to lane three. Reviewing race statistics at the conclusion of the championships showed that every team that paddled this boat finished last or second to last in their respective heats. As the luck of the draw would have it the U.S. got this boat for the semi's. Photos of the U.S. in the semifinal race showed a large bow wave being created by this boat -- in the quarterfinals heat when the U.S. team was paddling a different boat there was a relatively small bow wave being created. The team members recalled after the race that this boat "just would not run" like the other boats did in the practices and in the quarterfinals. To make matters more difficult, the semifinal race started off with both the Myanmar National team and the Thai "B" team jumping the starting horn. The United States team started exactly at the horn and was forced to try to climb over the lead boats wakes. Though paddling valiantly the United States ended up finishing in a time of 2 minutes 47 seconds which was 7 seconds behind Mynamar and 3 seconds behind Thailand"B". The United States in this semifinal heat beat the People's Republic of China
team by 32 seconds, which was exactly the same margin that they beat the Chinese team in the quarterfinal's when the U.S. team was paddling its back-up team (the U.S. brought 35 men paddlers, however only 20 paddlers can sit in an international category swan boat at one time)-- everyone did get to paddle in at least one heat). The start of the semifinals were video taped and it clearly showed the other teams starting before the horn was sounded. A replay of this tape before race officials did not sway them and our request to allow the U.S. team to race in a fifth lane in the finals in another boat was denied. The "slow boat" of lane 3 also hindered the efforts of the Thai's in the final race. Thailand "A" was comprised of the best military paddlers in Thailand. The final race should have included a neck-and-neck contest between Thai "A" and Thai "B". nfortunately, Thai "A" by winning their semifinal race was assigned the 3rd lane in the final's and had to paddle the "slow boat". A post-race examination of overhead photographs of the "slow boat" revealed that this boat had a slightly more bulbous bow as compared to the more vee shaped bows of the other boats. Taking into consideration that each of the sixteen swan boats at the race site were hand crafted out of teakwood, it is amazing that majority of the swan boats are equivalent in shape and hull speed.

The "slow boat" can be seen moored in the lower right hand corner.

The Myanmar team won the final race in a time of 2 minutes 44 seconds. Thailand "A" finished 2nd in a time of 2 minutes 52 seconds (a time 6 seconds slower than United State's time in the semi's). In 3rd place was Thailand "B" in a time of 3 minutes 3 seconds, followed by Singapore in 3 minutes 7 seconds in 4th place.

The most exciting race at the 1993 championships was the Women's Final's. The American women did us proud. The women on this year's Swan Boat team were chosen from four of the best outrigger canoe clubs residing on the three islands of Hawaii: 1) Outrigger Canoe Club--the number one long distance club and winner of the 1992 Molokai Channel race, 2) Hui Nalu Club, Oahu--1993 State Sprint Champions, 3) Hanalei Canoe Club--the top Kauai Club and 4) Napili Canoe Club--the top Maui women's club. Individually, two of the paddlers were from the 1992 Molokai race winning crew and have won State Championship races, including the 1993 State Champion "Open 4". The coach and whistler was Gaylord Wilcox veteran outrigger paddler and member of the 1991 United State's Men's Swan. In the final's our women's team fought back from 4th with 50 meters to go, to pass the national team from Taiwan< to take third place and a bronze medal in a time of 3 minutes 20 seconds beating the Taiwanese by 8 tenths-of-a-second. The Thai women won the event in a time of 3 minutes 15 seconds, three seconds ahead of Singapore.

At the conclusion of the races the Tourism Authority of Thailand treated all the athletes to a delicious farewell dinner followed by spectacular displays of lighted candles, fireworks, folk dancing, traditional music, the launching of colorful hot air paper balloons into the sky and a hands-on launching loi krathongs (flower rafts) on the Chai Phraya River. Thailand was a gracious host for these world championships, a great time was had by all. International competition and closing ceremonies like these create and foster friendship, understanding and camaraderie among the many different peoples of the world. A high point of
the trip was a personal visit to both American Teams by United States Ambassador, The Honorable David F. Lamertson and his wife:

 

Sawadee...
See you in Thailand !

 

 

 

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