Lake Las Vegas, NV (CBS) – Thousands turned out Saturday at Lake Las Vegas as the community’s collective paddle power raised funds for breast health services at the annual 2011 Rose Regatta.

After just three years of hosting the Rose Regatta, dragon boat racing is really “making waves” in the Las Vegas valley.  63 teams raced in this years Rose Regatta, outpacing years past and providing much needed funding in the fight against breast cancer.

“Beating breast cancer can be considered a race too, as survival rates are directly influenced by how early and quickly breast cancer is detected and treated,” says Rod A. Davis, President/CEO of St. Rose Dominican Hospitals.

“[The] Rose Regatta celebrates breast cancer awareness month AND raises funds for St. Rose Dominican Hospitals’ breast health services, including medical care and psychosocial support,” he added.

The Cause

Key to the breast health services St. Rose provides are ongoing educational and support services offered by the Barbara Greenspun WomansCare Centers of Excellence and the host of services the R.E.D. Rose (Responsible Early Detection) Program provides for uninsured woman and men facing breast cancer.  R.E.D. Rose provides free clinical breast exams, mammograms, ultrasounds, surgical consultations and biopsies.  They also provide financial support for women going through chemotherapy.

Breast Cancer is the most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women.  The Breast Cancer Society estimates that this year, more than 260,000 American women and men will be diagnosed with breast cancer, while 39,840 will die from the disease.  There are currently more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S., and with events like the weekend’s Rose Regatta, that number will no doubt grow.

inside Dragon Boats Take Over Lake Las Vegas For A Cause

KXNT's Robert Rytina, along with mom Carol, prepare to race as part of team "RegaTATAs"

Initiated in ancient China, dragon boat racing is one of the world’s fastest growing water sports.  Dragon boats are 40-50 foot long water racing canoes decorated with elaborate Chinese designs.  A dragon boat is propelled through the water by a crew of 20 paddlers, plus a drummer and a steersperson.  Dragon boat races take place in “heats” or “rounds” on straight water courses ranging from 250 to 1,000 meters.
The Experience
While a distance of 1,000 meters may not sound like much, getting from the starting point to the finish line is nothing less than a one and a half minute adrenaline rush.  For those spectators on the shore, it may look easy, but only those brave enough to strap on a life vest, pick up a paddle, and grab a seat on the boat can attest to the amount of muscle, skill and coordination necessary to power a dragon boat.
Aside from being able to “push” water with a paddle, dragon boat racers are required to operate in total synchronicity with everyone paddling at the same time, and same rate of speed.  Yes, it’s all about the coordination.  The dragon boat drummer helps to keep time on the boat, beating a drum at the instant racers are to insert their paddles into the water.  However, keeping a boat of twenty people on the same rhythm is quite the daunting task.  The power behind the paddle does play a role in a boat’s speed, but it is ultimately this uniformity in paddling which allows a dragon boat to glide along the water in what can appear to be an effortless fashion.  The more out of synch you are, the more your effort becomes fruitless.  Kind of like car insurance, you pay and you pay, but you never get anything back.
It was this in-synch skill we seemingly had mastered, even though we had met for just one practice session, several weeks prior.  There was supposed to be a second practice, but I think that was on the same night as “Dancing With The Stars,” and you certainly can’t compete with that.
In our first race, heat number 36, we started strong out of the gate, and ended up paddling on to a second place finish.  Yes, that is second out of three dragon boats, but a showing none-the-less, especially considering our lack of experience.  Whether or not this “victory” gave us a false sense of confidence, remains to be seen.
inside2 Dragon Boats Take Over Lake Las Vegas For A Cause

The RegaTATAs, pulling up the rear - in style

In our second heat, we didn’t quite fare so well.  A miscommunication about the timing of that race, number 48,  sent many of our teammates scrambling into the boat last-minute, and that set the tone for what was to follow.  An initial disheveled start, followed by a case of everyone “beating to their own drum,” so-to-speak, and our boat quickly fell behind both competitors’ .  Much in the same way Lucy and Ethel became overwhelmed while working on the chocolate factory assembly line, we quickly fell behind, and you can only shove so many truffles in your mouth to make up the difference!  It was true, as our practice captain had expressed, that no matter how hard you paddle, if the team is not in synch, the boat goes nowhere.  I guess we just wanted to test that theory out, and eureka, we proved it.
To make matters worse, one of our competitors that heat was the team from Colliers International Las Vegas.  You know, the largest and most successful southern Nevada commercial brokerage firm.  Yes, the five years and running “Brokerage of the Year” firm.  Just like the average gnat in the path of an approaching semi-truck on I-15, we never stood a chance.
Finally, after seeing the two other dragon boats cross the finish line, some members of our team began to “take it easy” not realizing that both races are timed, and those times combined are used to determine the overall winners.  I guess that was covered in the second practice.  Oh, nevermind.
Did I also happen to mention, that if everyone is paddling correctly, very little water splashes onto your teammates?   Well after two races, I was soaked.  (Mental note to self: never sit in front of Splashy McPaddleson again)
But, in the end, nothing that a stop a the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory next to the loading dock couldn’t make me forget about.  Mmm…  Chocolate.
Overall, a  great experience, definitely a worthwhile cause….  and, of course,  a lesson learned.
And whats the lesson, you ask?   Quite simple.  Practice, makes perfect.

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