Navy dragon boat crew just oar-some

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Todd Fitzgerald (author), Fleet Command Warrant Officer Stephen Downey (photographer)

Location(s): Darling Harbour

Topic(s): Dragon Boating

The Sydney Navy Dragons, with Head Coach Able Seaman Musician Ellen Zyla (front centre), at the Sydney Chinese New Year Festival held in Darling Harbour. (photo: Fleet Command Warrant Officer Stephen Downey)
The Sydney Navy Dragons, with Head Coach Able Seaman Musician Ellen Zyla (front centre), at the Sydney Chinese New Year Festival held in Darling Harbour.

Sydney Navy Dragons have re-established themselves as a force to be reckoned with on the local dragon boating scene, winning several high-profile events recently.

The mixed team of 25 men and women won the government challenge race at the Sydney Chinese New Year Festival held in Darling Harbour recently.

Head coach, Able Seaman Musician Ellen Zyla, said the Dragons had been established for years but had undergone a reinvigoration recently as part of a Navy-wide push to produce a fitter, more resilient fleet, capable of fighting and winning at sea.

"Dragon boating is a great whole body and mental work-out, it enables our crew to build teamwork with a group of people they may not otherwise interact with, across all ranks and rates," Able Seaman Zyla said.

"These skills are taken back to the members' individual units."

The team was also successful at the Dragons Abreast Regatta in October 2016, a fundraiser for breast cancer research. They won all of their heats and the final, and also achieved the fastest time of the day.

Sydney Navy Dragons train twice a week at HMAS Kuttabul.

Able Seaman Zyla said there were no shortcuts to success.

She said winning took commitment, dedication to team, individual willingness to step outside your comfort zone and an unwavering desire to work hard.

"Anyone can dragon boat. Age, gender, ability, race, sexuality, identity, rank and rate: none of these things matter in a dragon boat. It is about teamwork and working as a crew to support and encourage each other," she said.

Able Seaman Zyla has been involved in dragon boating since 2011 and was part of a six-woman crew that competed in the world's longest river race, the Yukon River Quest - a 740 kilometre race up the Yukon River in Canada.

The Sydney Navy Dragons are looking at combining the Sydney and Canberra crews for a two-day dragon boat festival in Canberra in March.

They hope to compete in an international event in the future.