Business / Reading time: ~ 3 Min.

The pink lagoon

Bianca Hültz's dragon boat is pink – because every member of the crew is a breast cancer survivor or undergoing treatment for the disease. These paddlers had a clear goal – to take part in the world-famous Vogalonga regatta in Venice. But how would they get their 12.5-meter boat to the lagoon? Enter DHL Freight, who transported the dragon boat for free.

“It was awesome,” exclaims Bianca Hültz, her enthusiasm still plain to see. Together with the other 18 members of her crew, she’s just returned from the world’s biggest non-competitive paddling regatta, the Vogalonga, held in Venice, Italy. Vessels of all shapes and sizes – canoes and rowing boats, stand-up paddle boards and dragon boats – if they float and are powered by human strength, they take their chances on the water. Hültz, who trains in a dragon boat several times a week, was at the Vogalonga 2024.

Back in 2020, Hültz – who is a member of the Group Chief Information Security Office team – was diagnosed with breast cancer (see article in the download section). Studies have shown that the movements involved in rowing or paddling promote lymph flow and are thus recommended for breast cancer patients. Hültz took up paddling in a dragon boat; specifically, a pink dragon boat. The color pink represents breast cancer, and the crew members have all had or are being treated for the disease. Hültz has been training for the past year and is now active in several teams. Last January, the trainer at the Bochum Dragon Boats Club, in Bochum, Germany, asked her if she’d like to participate in the Vogalonga this year. 

Getting the boat to Venice

But how to transport their dragon boat to Venice? “Well,” says Hültz, “I do work in logistics.” Ready to support the cause, DHL Freight came to the rescue and transported the boat for free.

“The colleagues at Freight, and especially Marco Scrudato, took care of everything and answered all our questions,” says Hültz. “The collaboration was a lot fun and without DHL Freight we probably wouldn’t have been able to go to Venice.”

Six hour-long regatta

Fast forward to Sunday, May 14 in Italy’s lagoon city. The dragon boat is let into the water at the Port of Venice. A crew of 19 women sporting straw hats with pink ribbons and matching pink life jackets set off, paddles in hand, flying a DHL beach flag in familiar yellow and red. Covering a distance of 30 kilometers, six of them out on the open water, they paddled for six hours in total.

“As we paddled around the bend and suddenly saw hundreds of boats on the water, it was crazy,” says Hültz, recalling that regatta moment. The Vogalonga isn’t a timed, competitive race – anyone can join in. “It’s really just one big happy party on the water,” Hültz explains. “Somewhere along the way, we got into a little race with a dragon boat from Hungary and people were cheering us on. The atmosphere was awesome and it was a truly international event. And we saw other pink dragon boats during the regatta,” she adds, “from Belgium and from France.”

An indescribable experience and event

Conditions on the day couldn’t have been better: Sunshine, no wind, blue skies and just the odd cloud here and there. “The stretch out on the open sea was a bit scary,” Hültz recalls, “but there was no wind and we managed really well.” The pink paddling team had a fantastic time, enjoying themselves to the full. “We had so much fun,” Hültz goes on. “We had a common goal and a mission to fulfill. It’s hard to describe how we felt.”

In fact, it was such an indescribable experience that Hültz says it would lose its appeal if repeated: “But you never know. Maybe we’ll go back for the 50th Vogalonga in 2026.” She will happily bask in the memories until then.

Pink Paddling

The Pink Paddlers movement, Paddling Against Breast Cancer, started in Canada in 1996, when the Canadian Doctor Don McKenzie had the idea of getting breast cancer patients into a dragon boat. Contrary to the accepted wisdom of the time, his studies had shown that the movements involved in paddling had a positive effect on lymph flow and were beneficial in aiding recovery. The sporting activity also had a positive influence on patients’ mental health. As their emblem, the women paddlers adopted the pink ribbon synonymous with breast cancer worldwide.

The Vogalonga
  • 2,000 boats and 8,000 participants each year
  • Any vessel that floats and is powered by human strength
  • First took place in 1975
  • Starts on Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark’s Square) at 9:00 a.m. on Pentecost Sunday (Whitsun), to the sound of canon fire

DHL Global Event Logistics (GEL) is a subsidiary of DHL Freight and specializes in international trade fair and event logistics. GEL is divided into five areas: Trade Fairs, Events, Auto-Mobility, Solution Design and Congress. The colleagues work together with other DHL divisions worldwide to find customized transport solutions.

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