Dragon boats race for bragging rights
NAHA, Okinawa - The Navy women’s and the Air Force men’s teams were victorious Wednesday at the 36th Naha Hari dragon boat races.
Hundreds of spectators crammed Tomari Port to cheer as more than a dozen teams of 32 people paddled 50-foot-long boats through the waters.
Japanese and U.S. military teams competed in heats of three boats, all brightly painted and resembling mythical sea dragons.
"It was tiring and extremely rewarding," Army Spec. Ernest Bragg said moments after he and his Torii Nights teammates won their heat over two local teams in a time of 5 minutes, 53 seconds. However, when all the heats were finished, the Army team found itself third. The Air Force team paddled to the finish in 5 minutes, 32 seconds, and was followed eight seconds later by the Navy team. The Marine men’s team finished in 6 minutes, 9 seconds.
"It was a great experience, and it’s been a lot of fun each year I’ve competed," said Army 1st Lt. Francis D’Allura, the Torii Nights coach who’s participated the past three years and is ready to do it again next year.
The Army women’s coach, Tonja Wadsworth, said she was proud of her team of active-duty soldiers, spouses and Department of Defense civilians. Placing third behind the Navy and Air Force didn’t detract from a great effort, she said.
"I wouldn’t have done anything different," she said, adding that the team will start practicing again in February.