CYSM Sea Dragons


One year on

Published Thu 21 Jul 2022

As we prepare for the first regatta for Season 2022/23 that will take place on the Barwon this coming Sunday, we pause to take stock of just how far we've come as a club. Today (21 July) marks the 1 year anniversary since the passing of our beloved Coach Joe and we reflect on the poignant words spoken by Chris "Crispy" Phoumsavanh at Joe's service.


How did I meet Joe? It was a cold winter (or spring, it’s Melbourne) morning and I was wondering to myself why I was sitting in this boat, wearing a smelly PFD, black plastic paddle in hand… and watching everyone else get yelled at by what seemed to be an angry Tolkien-esque dwarf. Best get to it before I get yelled at too. Not that I knew I was being yelled at, mind you, Joe was terrible at names. I think it took the better part of a month of training before he remembered me, but I guess that was his way of letting you know he saw some potential in you. And this isn’t just my story. Hundreds of people will probably recall this same story, maybe just a bit colder or warmer, an evening instead of a morning, a slightly smellier PFD, but the same Joe.

Remembering Coach Joe

Joe, being the great man that he was, meant a lot of things to a lot of people.

To many outsiders, maybe a strange sight, a short angry Italian man amongst a group of random asian paddlers.

To DBV and AusDBF officials, the stuff of nightmares if he thought you wronged his team in any way.

To Connie, a loving partner, devoted to her and Oscar.

To us, his paddlers, he was a source of knowledge and confidence. He was patient. He made time for us all.

And to me, a close friend and confidant. In those years that I was captain and unsure of my decisions, I could always turn to him for advice. He would always make the time, either on the spot or he’d shuffle things around. Joe always gave. And I will always be thankful to him for those times. I will always cherish those chats between races, watching our crews on the water, taking notes to be faster next time. And always, the beers and reflections after regattas.

We did a lot of new things together, our team, Joe, Phil and I. Beep tests, land training, pyramids. Local regattas, regional regattas, AusChamps. 200m, 500m, 2000m, 6000m, 12kms. From the lows, to the highs. He would always be there.

But the more things changed, the more things stayed the same too. Joe was always there. Every Tuesday night. Every Saturday morning. The same black hat (we all know the one, the BAD one). The same black PFD. The same blue windbreaker. The same stopwatch. The same whistle. The same words of encouragement; reach further, get under those armpits, do something with that paddle, timing, don’t squander it. Do or do not, there is no try. Keep training.

Thank you Joe. I will always think of you when I step onto a boat. I miss you, mate.


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