Pool of Life and the Pink Royals. Nottingham BDA nationals

Pool of Life paddle as part of Pink Royals at the BDA nationals in Nottingham, September 2019

At the BDA nationals in Nottingham last month, eight Pool of Life members joined up with six other teams to make up the Pink Royals crew. The Pink Royals is the UK’s first-ever composite breast cancer survivors’ dragon boat team.

Heather, Dai, Ann, Louise, Becci, Sue, Sheila, and myself (Kay), together with supporters Peter, Alan, and Sean, all set off early on Sunday morning to get there on time. We had to battle against the elements to even reach the venue, let alone take to the water! Nonetheless, the determination was plain to see, and the excitement palpable! Other Pink Royals paddlers came from all over the UK: Wave Walkers (London), Donegal Dragons (Ireland), Paragon Dragons (a very new club based in Wraysbury, near Windsor), Worcester Busters, Saints and Survivors (Cambridgeshire) and Oxford Paddlers for Life.

The weather was challenging all day, to say the least, with storms blasting Pink Royals during the SIX races in which they took part. Competing against BCS and non-BCS teams, they began with a 200m race and went on to do another five, yes five…all of which were 500m races! They made it through to a minor final, but by then the weather had taken a real turn for the worse.

The weather was brutal!

We were faced with rapidly falling temperatures, strong winds, and driving rain, but nothing could dampen Pink Royals’ spirits. From the very first stroke to last, everyone paddled with significant commitment and resolve. Massive support from fellow teams, paddle salutes and smiles all round saw the day end without a win, but on an incredible high and with the strongest feeling of solidarity!

Amathus were, of course, competing too and achieved some brilliant results. The mixed crew won the 200m AND 500m grand finals, as did Amathus ladies… the first time the ladies have ever done the double! HUGE congratulations to them all and massive thanks for their constant support of Pool of Life.

A fundamental and always emotional part of the day was the flower ceremony at the water’s edge, which began with a moving reading, sensitively performed by Amanda from Oxford Paddlers for Life. Amanda personalised the words she read from an original piece by Kathy Peck Mullen from GoPinkDC! in Washington DC, and there wasn’t a dry eye to be seen.

‘On The Water’

On the dock, there are no sick people, only paddlers.

There are no weak people, only athletes.

On the dock, disease is left behind.


Waving goodbye, the boat pulls away.

Losing its hold, metre by metre.


In the boat there is no pain, only determination.

Thinning hair, covered with scarves and caps.

Scars covered with lycra and bravado.


Fear vanished by strength.

In our hearts, there is no question, only commitment.

There is no looking back, only forward.


Eyes ahead, one boat, one body…

Gaining strength with every stroke…

In together, out together…

We leave it all on the water.

Afterwards, accompanied by beautifully haunting music, every Pink Royals paddler dropped a pink chrysanthemum into the water, paying tribute to everyone affected by breast cancer. To those still with us, and to those we have sadly lost.

Huge thanks go to Pink Royals’ founder, Wendy Grose (Pink Champagne), to The Royal Lion pub in Lyme Regis for sponsoring the Pink Royals’ shirts, and of course to Pink Royals’ captain/drummer Anne-Marie, and helm Esmee for keeping us driven and organised.

Having a bunch of amazingly supportive women from all over the UK, who have all had breast cancer, paddling together, was incredible. And given it was only Pink Royals’ second outing, the team’s potential is enormous.

Here’s to next time! “Royals”!

Ever thankful.

Kay Murphy

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