The Observer crew battling it out in the Gladstone Harbour Festival 2018 Raft Regatta.
The Observer crew battling it out in the Gladstone Harbour Festival 2018 Raft Regatta. Matt Taylor

OPINION: Gladstone, you're a bunch of vikings

HAVING competed at the international sporting level means I am, in no way, a stranger to the intense battle athletes commit to, to finish first.

But never, in my 10-years as a competitive rower, have I experienced anything like I did during Gladstone's annual raft race yesterday morning.

Famous or infamous, the regatta is well-known in the Port City.

As I rocked up to the race, I thought I knew what I was in for. I was ready.

"What do these people know about racing, grit and pain?", I thought.

Well, it turns out, they (Gladstone's viking raft racers) know everything, and I know nothing.

I think I was innocent right up until yesterday. But now, I've seen things.

9.01am March 30, 2018: Here lies the old Sarah, may she Rest in Peace.

The people in this competition were like no other I had ever come across. As soon as the horn blew and the make-shift vessels took off, I knew I was in trouble.

My paddle hadn't been in the water for more than three strokes when our raft smashed into another crew's.

Children grinning from ear to ear began whipping their carefully-crafted flower bombs at my soaking wet face. It seemed proximity was not taken into account when deciding how hard to throw the bags. Instead, teams of oarsmen and women laughed and jeered every time their paper-bag missiles made contact with a body part.

Soon what was once a shiny aluminium raft was now a slimy, clumpy surface resembling very much what it looked like that time I tried to make gluten-free pancakes.

The Observer crew rescuing their overboard teammates during the Gladstone Harbour Festival 2018 Raft Regatta.
The Observer crew rescuing their overboard teammates during the Gladstone Harbour Festival 2018 Raft Regatta. Matt Taylor

I'm not going to lie, our raft came last. My crewmates would argue and say "No we were third-last into shore Steger", but that's only because we never even made it to the final buoy.

We were too busy trying to rescue two teammates who'd slipped over the side of the raft and had gone overboard. And yes, one of them was me.

Now, I have upper body strength. But I could not for the life of me climb back into that slime-covered raft!

It was impossible and made more so by my growing panic attack brought on by the thought of hundreds of hungry sharks and crocs below me.

Finally, the SES crew rescued us.

The Observer crew taking part in the Gladstone Harbour Festival 2018 Raft Regatta.
The Observer crew taking part in the Gladstone Harbour Festival 2018 Raft Regatta. Matt Taylor

I'm considering cutting my matted, flour-infested hair off with jagged scissors after already having tried to wash it out three times, to no avail.

So Gladstone, thank you for that.

You rafters are the fiercest, toughest competitors out there.

- Sarah Steger, journalist



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