None of our team members had set foot in a dragon boat let alone competed in one.

A team of Leader-Telegram employees, former employees, relatives and friends took to the water at Half Moon Beach last summer for a one-day training session. The practice was a success if not capsizing the watercraft — as opposed to speed — were the goal.

We learned the jargon, honed our technique and all of us returned for more punishment on the day of the official race. After all, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more worthy cause than the cancer-related services the Half Moon Dragon Boat Festival benefits.

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The fifth annual installment of the race will be Saturday, Aug. 3, and online registration begins Friday. If history is an indicator, all slots will be filled for the event, which is a joint partnership between Mayo Clinic Health System and Hope in the Valley — a Chippewa Valley-based nonprofit cancer advocacy organization.

“Over the past four years, the Half Moon Dragon Boat Festival has grown tremendously thanks to thousands of participants and volunteers, along with the support of sponsors and partners, like Hope in the Valley,” said Sara Carstens, director of community wellness and engagement for Mayo Clinic Health System in northwest Wisconsin, in a news release. “A cancer diagnosis is life-changing — not just for the patient, but also for family, friends and co-workers.

“We’re honored this event helps support organizations making a positive impact in the lives of cancer patients who live here in the Chippewa Valley.”

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As for our first foray into the world of dragon boats, we fared relatively well in the first of three races, finishing near the middle in a 10-boat contest.

Our timing was a bit off in the second heat, but we rallied in the third to finish in 32nd-ish place out of 40 boats. It’s difficult to pinpoint your exact placement when you don’t win in the coveted Division C consolation final. Thank goodness for participatory medals and cool T-shirts.

Organizers hope to raise $70,000 this year. The gala also will feature music, food and children’s activities.

“It was a great bonding experience for our office and a bunch of friends,” said Katy Macek, our fearless captain last summer. “We never envisioned we’d be the most successful team, but for 25 people with zero dragon boat paddling experience, we sure had a lot of fun. I would definitely do it again.”

It seemed to be a common sentiment among all of the participants in the bucket list-worthy event.

Liam Marlaire, assistant editor