Growing up in Washington, DC, Patrick McEnroe didn’t have much exposure to the sport of dragon boat racing. But for the last three years, he has been the captain of BNY Mellon’s dragon boat team in Hong Kong, a group of 20 to 30 employees who take to the Stanley Main Beach waterfront each year in Hong Kong’s largest paddling race. Part sporting event, part street carnival, the competition is one of the most colorful and anticipated events of the year in Hong Kong. Patrick, a vice president in BNY Mellon Markets who earned a bachelor’s degree in business at the University of Cincinnati and an MBA at Suffolk University, recently spoke with “Behind the Scenes” about his experience.
What was your path to BNY Mellon and to Hong Kong?
I joined the company’s Corporate Trust team in 2006 as part of the asset swap with JP Morgan Chase. Prior to that, I was working in Tokyo, and I really enjoyed the region. But it was time for me to go back to the U.S. around the time of the asset swap. When I returned to the States, I moved from Corporate Trust to BNY Mellon Markets.
After about four years, my manager asked me if I had an interest in returning to Asia, and I jumped at the chance. I’ve been in Hong Kong now for six years. It’s an exciting, vibrant city, a world financial center, and it has a large expatriate community, which makes adapting that much easier. And I really like the team I’m on as everybody is very committed to doing a great job. Between new regulations, money market reform and the fact that we’re a global institution, something new is always happening in our group.
How did you get interested in dragon boat racing?
One of the main reasons I got involved in dragon boat racing four years ago was that it’s a big event for Hong Kong. Being an expat, I wanted to learn about Hong Kong, its history, and its culture. At one of our employee engagement activities, a group got together and brainstormed the idea of participating in a dragon boat race. The first year I was a participant, but the next three years I became one of the leaders.
We participate in a large invitational race that happens on the Tuen Ng Festival on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, which is in June. It’s quite an experience. A couple hundred thousand people come out to watch, and Hong Kong island is not that large! On the day of the race, there’s drama and excitement. The waterways are jammed with these massive dragon boats. The races are loud and colorful.
What is a race like, and how do you prepare?
We have a team of about 25 paddlers, plus a drummer and steersman. We compete in the mixed class, with men and women. This is the signature race, one in which more than 200 other teams participate.
There are 12 boats per heat. In our class, that worked out to 17 races. We race for 270 meters – that’s about 886 feet, or one-sixth of a mile. It takes about a minute to complete the course. In one minute of racing, we do 120 strokes, following a pattern we come up with. The trick is to get your paddlers to be synchronized at that pace.
To get ready for the race, our team participates in three months of practice sessions and a warm-up race event. Every year we come up with a new training strategy. Last year, we practiced for two hours in the water every weekend and once a week we would train on land for an hour, and we were very successful.
On the day of the race, everybody uses the same fiberglass boats and paddles – all the teams are on even footing in terms of equipment. The sponsors attach dragon heads to each one of the boats, so it’s really fun to see.
How do you and your teammates benefit from participating in dragon boat racing?
BNY Mellon’s Hong Kong branch is big enough that you don’t see everyone every day. The team gives us an opportunity to work with a different mix of people. We have some people on the dragon boat team who are athletic and like the outdoors aspect of it, and some are drawn by the social dimension of being on a team. Together, we evolve from a somewhat random approach in March to a very tight team by the time of the race in June. It means a lot to me that BNY Mellon supports dragon boat racing, because it promotes team building in a relaxed and fun atmosphere.