‘We won’: William ignores accusations his boat race was fixed
Prince William tasted victory in a dragon boat race in Singapore yesterday.
His team beat a rival boat captained by British High Commissioner Kara Owen in a race along the Marina Reservoir in the Asian city-state.
In sweltering 31C heat and 75% humidity, the heir to the throne paddled furiously in time with his team along the stretch of water, where a 10ft saltwater crocodile was discovered three weeks ago and 6ft monitor lizards regularly surface.
All sides denied the result was a fix, although William aroused suspicions. “We won,” he said. “So I’ll take that. The high commissioner planned it very well.”
The Prince, who wore a white polo shirt and black Gymshark cap – he presented the MBE to Gymshark founder Ben Francis in May – was praised as a “natural” at the sport by some of his teammates, who included one of his Scotland Yard bodyguards.
But William admitted: “I was terrified if I got it wrong I’d clash with the whole side and everyone would start going out of sync. All I cared about is, don’t get it wrong.”
The heir to the throne, who is on a four-day visit to Singapore to attend events for his £50 million environmental Earthshot Prize and his United for Wildlife conservation group global summit, took part in the race to pay tribute to the popular sport in the country.
He was part of a 22-person team that included Singaporeans, British expats, and representatives from across the Commonwealth. Each dragon boat has 20 paddlers, a drummer to regulate the pace and rhythm, and a steer.
“I love sports,” William said, adding that he had been following “the key man in front of me”.
He also praised the drummer at the bow of the boat saying: “The drum was very good, a very good rhythm”.
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Captain of the team, Chris Bosher, said after the race that the prince was “super engaged from the moment he walked down the pontoon to the moment he finished”.
He added: “He was excellent, he said ‘seriously guys I want us to win this’.
“After he was asking about the race calendar and we mentioned we’d got a race coming up in two weeks and really he should come back and we’ll give him a seat on the boat.
“He said it’s quite a refreshing break to do from the normal routine so this was right up his street.”
Dragon boat racing can be traced back nearly 2000 years and it began as a modern international sport in 1976.
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It is a popular sport in Singapore with many nations, including the UK, having expat teams based there.
The British Dragons formed as a club in 2000, with support from the British Chamber of Commerce, with 70 members from 16 nationalities who participate in both local and international competitions.
Kara Owen, the British High Commissioner to Singapore, insisted there had been no plan to let William win and that she had been paddling as fast as she could go in her dragon boat. “I tried my very hardest to make sure he didn’t win,” she said.
It was not the first time the Prince has paddled on a dragon boat. He went head-to-head on the water with his wife, the then Duchess of Cambridge, during their tour of Canada in 2011 – and beat her team by crossing the line a third of a boat’s length ahead.
In a keynote speech at a global summit on the international wildlife trade, William spoke of Kate’s regret that she had not been able to join him.
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“It has been 11 years since Catherine and I enjoyed a memorable visit here on behalf of my late Grandmother in her Diamond Jubilee Year. And I should mention that Catherine is very sorry she can’t be here. She is helping George through his first set of major exams.”
“The focus of my visit this week is how we collectively overcome our planet’s greatest environmental challenges,” he told delegates at the United for Wildlife summit in the Flower Dome – the world’s biggest glass greenhouse – at the Gardens by the Bay nature park.
The Prince announced a big step forward on at least one of them in his speech. In support of United for Wildlife, founded by William in 2014, seven governments including the UK, United States, Singapore, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa have agreed to require their financial regulators to collaborate more closely to stop money laundering linked to the trade in flora and fauna, reckoned to be the world’s fourth most lucrative illegal one after human trafficking, drugs and arms.
William wore his green credentials with pride, sporting a £40 Wilmok Italian tie made from recycled plastic bottles.
He has had the £40 Wilmok Italian tie, made from three and a half bottles, for some time and has been looking for the right public occasion to wear it.
One media wag immediately labelled William “bottleneck” but his sustainability message was echoed across Singapore last night as major buildings were lit up green to mark his arrival in town with the Earthshot Prize awards.
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