Dragons on the Water - Wacker Chemie AG


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Dragons on the Water

From the Fire-devils to the WACKER Dragons – the WACKER dragonboat team in Nünchritz can look back on a colorful, happy and successful history.

In the summer months the WACKER Dragons train at least once a week. Also pictured: Dr. Heike Brandt, (first row, 3rd from right), Ulrich Bachmann (back row, 5th from right), Roland Kümmig (first row, 4th from left).

It all began with a letter. In 1996 the Riesa Watersports Association wrote to businesses in the area to ask if they'd like to form a dragonboat team. At the Nünchritz chemical plant, the letter arrived at the plant fire department. Not long after, the WACKER Fire-devils completed their first race on the Elbe made up with red face paint and small home-made horns on their heads.

Soon employees from all departments were joining the dragonboat team, which today boasts 28 members. “From the lab to the chemical plants, all divisions are represented,” says Roland Kümmig, 60, who as team leader organizes the training sessions. With widely differing working hours, this is no easy task. But as the “Area Manager for Transport and Logistics” Kümmig is the perfect man for such complex organizational tasks.

From May to September, the dragonboat team trains once a week and twice weekly before a race. “The boat is 12.5 meters in length and can seat at least 16 paddlers,” explains Ulrich Bachmann, 56. The former firefighter who currently works as a plant operator has been involved in the dragonboat team from the very beginning.

The races are contested in different race classes and distances. The short distance is 200 meters but there are also races over more than 900 meters. In the mixed category, at least six women must paddle, whereas in the open class, gender is not taken into account.

The dragonboat with which the WACKER team has already enjoyed so much success was donated to the Riesa Watersports Association.

Whilst the dragonboat team takes training very seriously, the most important thing is to have fun. “I don’t need to take home the biggest trophy,” says Dr. Heike Brandt, 35, who has been on the team since 1999. A trainee at the time and now a laboratory and department manager in Corporate Analytics, in the early years she even became Saxon champion as part of the youth team.

On top of that she has also twice been voted the prettiest drummer. The drummer sits right at the front of the boat and sets the rhythm. “I have since passed on responsibility to a younger colleague and act as navigator sitting right at the back,” she says. “Either that or I can paddle, left or right – I can be used in any position.” She was once involved in a race where the bench broke. The paddlers fell into the boat – the race was lost. But they still celebrated afterwards.

In total, the WACKER dragonboat teams won races in Riesa and Leipzig four times as well as clinching four second places and two third places – and that among 30 to 50 teams taking part at a time.

The current dragonboat team no longer lines up as Fire-devils, instead they now call themselves the WACKER Dragons. They train using a boat christened personally by site manager Gerd Kunkel. In 2000 he painted the pupils in the dragon’s eyes at the tip of the boat bringing the dragon’s head to life. The boat emblazoned with the WACKER logo was then donated to the Riesa Watersports Association – but WACKER employees are still able to borrow it to train before races.