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Day 1, Training
After arriving in Taipei at 10:30pm local time on Tuesday night, we travelled by bus for 3 hours to the Chinatrust Shandory Hotel in I-Lan County, arriving completely exhausted and ready for a good night's sleep.

Our first full day in Taiwan was a relatively quiet one, with everyone still a bit tired after the 16 hour journey from Auckland to the hotel. The team headed down to the course on the Tungshen River at about 10am (a 25 minute bus ride) where we had a look around the facilities and then headed to the boat racks to find a boat to take out for our first training row. Malcolm picked the same boat Otago had last year, a Ted Hale, which still had a small New Zealand flag on the side. His reasoning being that if we got a Ted Hale when the boats were allocated, rather than one of the vastly superior Empacher or BBG boats, the crew wouldn't be too disappointed. After a short training row which went reasonably well, we returned to the hotel to rest.

Duncan was still feeling unwell with a very sore throat, so Gilbert (one of our interpreters), Duncan and I headed off to the local hospital. Negotiating the language barrier didn't prove too difficult and Duncal ended up getting an injection and a 2 day course of antibiotics.

The afternoon row at about 4:30pm, for which we used one of the Empachers, also went fairly well, with the crew commenting on how much better the Empacher felt than the Ted Hale. After a huge dinner we all headed out to the Lo-tung Night Market, about 40 minutes from the hotel. The market was busting with activity and we had to keep an eye out to avoid being hit by the dozens of crazy scooter riders. Brand-name ripoffs abounded and most of the guys bought something to take home.

Day 2, Training
With Duncan ruled out of the crew due to his illness, we were forced to find a replacement. The Melbourne reserve, Andrew Sypkens, agreed to give it a go despite a niggling back injury and the morning's training row, back in the Ted Hale, went reasonably well. After the row we all headed back to the hotel to rest.

I went down to the course along with the coaches or managers of all the other mens crews, to draw for boats. When my turn came up I drew number 6, great! I thought, the 6th best boat, that'll be one of the BBG's. Sadly it was not to be and boat number 6 turned out to be a Ted Hale.

The crew arrived a short while later and started setting up the boat. Once we got the riggers by the right seats (whoever rigged the boat only put one of the eight riggers in the right place) work progressed fairly quickly.

Duncan was looking very unhealthy at this point so one of our interpreters and I took him down to the main I-lan Hospital to get checked out. His temperature when he arrived was 40.6! The diagnosis was acute tonsilitis, and Duncan was finally released about 4 hours later after injected with antibiotics, packed up with ice, put on a drip for 2 hours and given 6 different types of pill to take several times a day. By the time we got out of the hospital we'd missed dinner so we were forced to resort to McDonalds.

While we were at the hospital, the crew finished setting up the boat. By this stage it was too late to go out for a row so they headed back to the hotel. At 8pm that night there was a small informal welcome for all the teams at our hotel and then some Karaoke which I'm told was pretty painful in general.

Day 3, Training
Sadly our replacement's back didn't hold up (bloody soft Melbourne boys) so the Sydney reserve, Brendan Fehon, stepped in. Brendan's arrival meant the bow three could go back to their original seats which was good, with Brendan simply taking Duncan's place in four seat.

The two training rows at 10:30am and 4:30pm went well, with the boat really starting to move, a welcome change from the fairly indifferent rows up to this point. Jobbie's emotional interview with a local TV crew provided some entertainment before we went back to the hotel.

At 7pm the opening ceremony was held in the I-Lan County Culture Bureau auditorium. After an impressive display of indigenous Taiwanese dancing by local children, each team was introduced and their representatives came onstage to present the Magistrate with a gift. We went last and after Malcolm and I presented the Magistrate with the carved oar, the crew came onstage and performed the Haka to rapturous applause from the crowd.

Day 4, Heats & Repechages
Day 1 of racing saw us up at 6:00am and on the bus at 6:30am. We weighed in at 7:00am, exactly 2 hours before our heat, and averaged 74.2kg, easily under the 75kg maximum.

The heat at 9:00am proved very tough. Melbourne led all the way with Otago chasing hard but never really threatening them. We held Cambridge off fairly easily and T.P.E.C. came in fourth. Our middle thousand went quite well but the start and finish could certainly be improved on. In the other heats Sydney, Hamburg and Harvard all went straight through to the Semis without any problems.

Second place in the heat meant we had to win our repechage to have any chance of making the A or B final. We drew Waseda, who were looking pretty good this year, and Oxford who went pretty slowly in their heat and who we expected to beat easily.

The repechage went pretty much as we expected with Waseda chasing us hard all the way and Oxford a distant third. More importantly, we had a much better, faster start and held the last 500 metres better too. The high heat and humidity was still having an effect but the crew was getting used to it slowly. We now have to try and get through the harder of the two semis to reach the A final.

The crew went back to the hotel to rest while I stayed for the coaches/managers meeting where they informed us that a typhoon was forecast for tomorrow and the regatta might have to be postponed. A decision on what to do was to be made at 6:00am on Sunday morning, depending on the weather.

Day 5, Semis & Finals
Finals day dawned warm and clear, no sign of the impending typhoon, so we were out of bed at 6:00am and off down to the course for the 7:00am weigh-in. We were easily under weight again so it was back to the bus for breakfast and a psych-up before the big race.

The semi-final started at a fast pace with Melbourne taking the early lead, closely followed by Hamburg with Otago and then Cambridge following closely. At the half way mark the order was the same, Melbourne had stretched their lead slightly and the gaps had opened up a little but we were still in contention for second. Unfortunately over the second thousand Melbourne moved away looking very comfortable in the lead and Hamburg managed to pull away from us. The crews all finished about 10 seconds apart.

On the way back to the hotel for lunch, our driver took us for a quick visit to the Nu-wa Niang-niang Temple. These temples are amazing, huge structures with incredibly intricate carvings and decorations. It was strange to see such opulence contrasting with the mostly shabby dwellings in the surrounding countryside.

Though the best any of us could get was 5th, there was plenty of pride at stake in the B final. After a fast and furious start it was neck and neck between Otago and Toronto at the thousand, with Yale close behind and Cambridge still in touch. Otago held the pace well but Toronto were able to pull away to win by 3.6 seconds. Yale were pushing hard for the whole race and ended only 2.4 seconds behind us but never really threatened.

In the A final Sydney were in control from the outset and though Melbourne pushed them very hard, they were always going to take the gold. The surprise of the day was Harvard's bronze, with last years winners, Hamburg, being shut out of the medals completely.

The awards ceremony was a very colourful affair, held straight after the mens A final. Local school children gave displays of dancing and popular games before the pleasantly brief speeches from selected officials and presentations to the medal winners. Things were livened up at the end by a fairly strong earthquake which shook us up a little.

The final regatta placings were:

Lightweight Mens Eights: 1st Sydney, 2nd Melbourne, 3rd Harvard

Lightweight Womens Quads: 1st Hamburg, 2nd Milano, 3rd N.T.N.U.

The closing ceremony was held in the main gymnasium at the I-Lan County Sports Park. It was a relatively informal affair in comparison to previous years. The evening began with some Chinese music while all the teams arrived and organised themselves. We then had brief speeches by officials and the county magistrate, after which a representative from each team was presented with a commemorative CD (a mock-up of the real ones which are sent out each year a few months after the event, filled with photos and information about the regatta). After we'd eaten, with a Chinese symphony playing during the meal, each team was called upon to give some kind of performance to entertain the crowd, which was getting pretty rowdy by this time despite the restricted amount of beer available. We of course performed the haka (with help from a couple of uninvited extras) which went down well. After the meal everyone headed back to the hotels. For the next hour or two the hotel hallways were filled with people trying to swap gear (the Cambridge jackets were in hot demand again) and things didn't really quieten down until well into the morning.

Day 6, Tour of I-Lan
Our relatively early start was hard work for those who had celebrated well into the morning but eventually everyone made it onto the bus for our tour of I-Lan County, with the itinerary organised by Gilbert.

First stop, after the bus driver got somewhat lost, was the Su-Ao Cool Springs (a carbonic-acid spring) which are said to cure skin diseases and to make the skin beautiful. The sun was out so it was a great chance to take a dip then relax in the sunshine. A TV crew turned up so we did the obligatory haka (and a terrible rendition it was too).

Next up was a flying visit to the Su-Ao Port. We walked across the ???????? bridge and once we got to the seaward side, Gilbert pointed out the boats full of labourers from the Chinese mainland. They come over in search of work and live in their boats just offshore because they're not allowed to set foot in Taiwan. The local fishing companies pick them up when they go fishing and need extra (extremely cheap) labour.

After lunch we visited National Lot-dung Senior High School, where Gilbert went to school. All the students assembled outside and we performed the haka for them. The students then responded with some Taiwanese folk songs and we finished by singing the national anthem for them. We also had a bit of a question and answer session. Ben was a big hit with the girls, who thought he looked like Tom Cruise.

Our second school visit for the day was to National Loan-yang Senior Girls High School. Our tour guide was "Rocky", their english teacher. Firstly we went and spoke to his class, answering questions from the girls (including whether Ben had a girlfriend), then we went outside and performed the haka for some of the teachers and students. Once we'd escaped the hordes of girls wanting to be photographed with Ben, we were taken up to see one of the senior classes of dance students. These girls combined normal schooling with several hours of dance lessons each day, in the hope of becoming professional dancers after they graduate. They performed a couple of dances for us, which were very impressive.

Last on the list was a visit to the I-Lan Night Market. We spent about an hour and a half wandering round the market, and although the sad state of the exchange rate (about 11:1, campared with 17:1 two years ago) made the prices higher than we'd expected, there were plenty of bargains, including lots of fake clothes and watches, to be found. After stocking up for the court session we headed back to the hotel at about 9:30.

The court session finished the night (in more ways than one for Spader and Guy). Malcolm appointed himself judge, jury and executioner, with Wattie as defence counsel (they never really had a chance) and Guy the prosecutor, because he was keeper of "the book". All the offences came out and not surprisingly, Spader got hammered. Guy also took a beating, and Wattie and Jobbie suffered at the hands of the judge pretty badly as well.

Day 7, Visit to Taipei
An early start saw us on the bus at 8am, after performing the haka in the hotel lobby for the hotel manager, some of his staff, and the regatta officials who were left. An accident and a landslide on the main road to Taipei held us up for a while at a small market where we met up with the Italian team from Milan University and did some last minute kit swapping.

We hit McD's in Taipei at about 11:30 for lunch and then headed up to the Yangming Mountain National Park for a walk around on the (very extinct) volcanoes.

After returning to Taipei on the bus we took the subway to visit Lungshan Temple in downtown Taipei, then wandered back through the middle of Taipei to have a look around and do some shopping. The boys made a spectacle of themselves by deciding to do the Haka in the middle of a shopping area but got some applause for their trouble.

Finally, we caught the subway back to where we'd arranged to meet the bus, knocked back some fast food, and headed to the airport at about 8:30pm for our 10:30 flight.

The trip home was largely uneventful, with most of us sleeping a lot of the way, exhausted after the long day and a lot of walking. When we finally got back to Auckland everyone took flights home, Jobbie unfortunately missing his first flight thanks to an extremely unhelpful and unfriendly Qantas ticketing woman (I won't be flying on Qantas again in a hurry).

All in all it was a very successful trip, with the mostly young and inexperienced crew rowing well and showing a lot of heart to finish 6th overall against some very classy competition.

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