AusChamps 2024

2024 AusChamps - Champion Lakes, Armadale, Perth, Western Australia.                                         

Dates:  Tuesday 16 (training day), Wednesday 17 to Sunday 21 (competition days) April 2024.

The Australian National Dragon Boat Championships, known as AusChamps, is the annual high-performance competition for State and Club teams. It is the premier dragon boat paddling event in Australia.

The championships attracted approximately 3,500 competitors from clubs all around the country to participate in club vs club and State vs State races. State Teams are chosen from the best available athletes and compete at AusChamps for Champion State. The State Teams are also a pathway to the Auroras (national team) who compete at the IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships.

Racing includes events for several age categories, including Junior/Youth categories, a Premier (open age) category, and three Senior (over age 40) categories. Crews are Women, Mixed, and Open composition, and race distances are 200m, 500m, and 2,000m. The boats are either 'standard' sized, which holds a crew of 22, or 'small', which holds a crew of 12. There are also breast cancer and all cancer survivor categories

There is no doubt that the event was a huge success.  But it did not start that way.  During the planning stages which started 12 months before the event, I attended many meetings with other State Presidents and AusDBF members who said that their Clubs had told them that they were not going to travel all the way over to WA, the airfares and accommodation are too expensive.

This dwelled on the AusChamps Working Group right up to the close of early bird nominations.  Up till this moment, if the nominations fell short, the event could be cancelled.  The nominations came in, the budget was in the black and everyone was happy.  The nominations told us 59 Clubs were attending, we had no idea about the number of competitors, as the team sheets were only submitted a few days before the start of the event.  Historical information was used to estimate how many would attend.  We selected 800 people per day, more than Albury Wodonga in 2023.  This was the basis for ordering tents, chairs, car parking etc which had been done months ago.

The final nominations closed a month later, previously, this is normally less than 10% of the early bird nominations, but this time there were more.  The total number of Clubs increased to 69.  The focus now was getting the draft race programme out.

We were surprised on Day 1 when the car park filled up, there should have been spare space, but it was put down to wide gaps between vehicles and more single passengers rather than full vehicles which we had anticipated.  Then there were concerns that there were not enough chairs, how could that be, we selected 800 members which was slightly higher than last year’s event at Albury-Wodonga and ordered 1,200 chairs, 50% greater than the estimated number of members

We finally got the competitor numbers 2 weeks after the event, 1,212 on Day 1 and a massive 1,270 on Day 4 of the competition, bucking all the previous trends, that’s why the car park was full.  We apologise for the lack of chairs.  Our recommendation from the review committee to AusDBF will be to ask the Clubs to provide an estimate of how many people they will have on each day when they fill out the nomination forms and to include if they have participants that have mobility issues (blind etc) so the host state can plan for tent space, chairs, which Clubs should be closer to marshalling, parking and toilets etc.

There were some hiccups as there always are with large events, smoothed over by the hard-working AusChamps Working Group led by Barbara Clarkson.  I would like to thank the members who filled in the Survey Monkey Feedback form, the AusChamps review committee has just completed their assessment which includes reports from the various sections (tower, starter, marshalling etc), all the reported incidents, the safety officer report and all the survey monkey forms. 

I would like to thank the Volunteers and Officials, some of them, took part of their annual leave to participate and donated their time freely.  The event could not take place without volunteers and officials.

We ended up with 69 Clubs from all over Australia competing, 10 of which were from WA.  It was great to see some of our WA Clubs that had not attended AusChamps previously, hopefully, this will give your Club a taste of the action and consider attending future AusChamps.

On the positive, we achieved a record number of participants for an AusChamps event in WA.  Our social media exposure with many thanks to Nella Fitzgerald our media consultant was far greater than any AusChamps event.  Albury-Wodonga in 2023 achieved an estimated 28.1 K Facebook reach (posts, stories, tags etc.) by comparison, Armadale in 2024 achieved an estimated 72.7 K reach a huge increase.  Well done, Nella.

Our WA State team, the largest for some time due to home ground advantage did exceptionally well with U18 Women’s collecting a Silver in the 10’s 500 m and a Bronze in the Open 1,000 m.  The U 24 collecting a Bronze in the Mixed 10’s.  The Premier Division collecting Bronze in the Mixed 20’s and Women’s 10’s 500 m.  The Senior B collected Bronze in the Mixed 20’s and Open 10’s 500 m.  The Senior C collected a Gold in the 10’s and Bronze in the Mixed 20’s 500 m.

Karen Smits was our State Flag Bearer and Laura Huges read the Paddlers Oath.

The blow-up Dragons, Swan and the mascots were a great hit with lots of photos being posted – again thanks, Nella.  Photos will be posted on the DBWA website soon.

Major Partners.

Our many thanks to the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries who provided a large grant to assist with the running of the event, and also to the City of Armadale for their continued support.  Venues West provided significant discounts on the venue hire and assisted throughout the event.  Hong Kong Connect for their support, Paul Debnam from Bournda, NSW taged all electrical items free of charge, and AusDBF assisted with Live Streaming and Bill Boards at the airports.  Wayne Galbraith from Loadcell Supplies – Boat weighting.  Rowing WA for the use of their boats and sheds for storage.  Spuds Marquee Hire for a great deal on the hire of the tents.

Live Streaming.

The entire event was live-streamed which is part of our effort to gather a larger social media footprint which we strongly believe will reflect in the growth of the sport.

It’s a Wrap

We have delivered the event in partnership with AusDBF.  We have provided learning from the event which will assist future events.  We have provided pathways for paddlers, sweeps, coaches, officials and volunteers.  We have brought along a new cohort to take on future events.  We have increased our social media footprint.  We have improved the dragon boat community of Western Australia.

Brad Brooksby

President DBWA