They had placed behind Filipino side Go For Gold Dragonboat Team and Temasek Polytechnic in the heats and semi-finals, as they were still trying to find their rhythm.
As such, Kembangan-Chai Chee Community Sports Club considered themselves underdogs for the six-team Premier Open grand final at the DBS Marina Regatta at Marina Bay yesterday.
Then in a glorious 200 metres, it all came together as Kembangan-Chai Chee reeled in Go For Gold in the final 25 metres and crossed the finish line first in 46.564 seconds to deny the Filipino side a clean sweep of the grand final events.
Go For Gold finished second in 46.765sec and Temasek Polytechnic third in 47.184sec.
Kembangan-Chai Chee captain Alvin Pang told The Straits Times: "It took a true team effort and everyone came together at the right time to deliver this win in the fastest time we have clocked since we got together in January.
"We wanted to win, but it is still a surprise because our opponents were faster than us earlier on. Even though we are an all-male team and Go For Gold have five female paddlers, their girls are equally strong and being lighter in weight helps reduce drag.
"They and Temasek Polytechnic really pushed us to greater heights.
In this race, you can have the best rowers but, if the 20 cannot row as one, it still won't work out just as well.
ALVIN PANG, Kembangan-Chai Chee captain, after winning the Premier Open title.
"In this race, you can have the best rowers but, if the 20 cannot row as one, it still won't work out just as well."
Although Go For Gold just missed out on a third victory of the day, they were still elated with two wins in the Premier Mixed (46.882sec) and Women's (1min 00.767sec) grand finals earlier on.
Go For Gold drummer Patricia Bustamante said: "We are happy even though we finished second for the last race because we know we did our best against an all-men's team.
"We knew our opponents are powerful and it would be a tough race with some of us competing in a third race today but, overall, we did very well for our team and country."
The Corporate Women's final also saw a nail-biting finish as DBS Bank (1:04.562) pipped Team Mushu of Hong Kong Disneyland (1:04.604) by less than a tenth of a second to retain their title.
DBS captain Eveline Lau, 32, said: "We saw them beside us, but we couldn't tell who were ahead as we had to be very focused on the boat and the coxswain's command.
"The 200m race is anyone's game and it all depends on who has the desire to push until the end as a team."
"Defending our title means a lot because we put in a lot of hard work, including seven hours of land and water training across four days a week for more than half a year. It makes all the hard work worth it."
Team Mushu did not end up empty-handed as they took home the Corporate Open grand final in 55.663sec, edging out KPMG Dragonboat A (55.982sec).
This year marks the eighth edition of the annual regatta since its inception in 2012.
Over 100 teams from eight countries and territories participated in this year's three-day event.