Teams put on strong performances during the 16th annual Penticton Dragon Boat Festival held Sept.10 and 11 at Skaha Lake.
“It might have even been better than some of us expected,” said race organizer Don Mulhall. “Some of the top Okanagan teams, the top Penticton teams that usually do quite well, did quite well.”
Teams had to deal with heavy winds on Saturday which forced crews to change the course to make it safer, and also resulted in races being shorter.
The top local mixed team in the Jade final was O’kai I’kick’a U’as, winning in two minutes, six seconds. The TCC Dragoneers were in second by approximately four seconds. The top local women’s team, Despirit Housewives, took second in the A Diamond division, clocking in at 2:24.08, losing to the Cultus Lake Dragon Flyers, 2:23.14. Survivorship won the Dale Charles Memorial Cup in the Breast Cancer Challenge. They defeated the North Shore Dragon Busters by six seconds, 2:31.51 to 2:37.36.
Among the speedy boats said Mulhall were some representing the False Creek Racing Canoe Club, which sent their top teams. Two of them finished second in the finals. FLCC FORTified won the Mixed Gold second semifinal in 2:28.86 by 11 seconds. Edmonton had Got Gainz winning the Platinum A final in two minutes, which was eight seconds faster then the next team. Other local teams that performed well were the Flying Dragons, comprised of athletes with developmental disabilities, and the Peach City Dragons. The Flying Dragons placed fourth in the women’s opening round in 2:30.01, then improved in the second race to 2:14.38.
“It was really fun,” said Tiffany Bjorndal. “The water was quite choppy for the first bit. It was alittle bit challenging, but the second one we did pretty well. We did better than the first one.”
The Flying Dragons were approximately 17 second behind the Spitfires for third.
“We just wanted to go out and have fun,” she said. “They (her teammates) are pretty excited. I notice a lot of them are so excited that we have to remind them to stay focused. The drummer sometimes has to tell them it’s time to concentrate.”
Tim Haberstock, a parent of a Flying Dragons member said they continue to build as a team, that is now comprised of mainly Special Olympic athletes. Haberstock said some of the athletes who have been with the team since the beginning are becoming quite good.
“It’s pretty great to see the development of not only the beginning athletes throughout the season but also how the veterans have improved over the years,” he said.
Haberstock added one of the best parts of the festival is that many of the athletes are able to give back to the sport by volunteering in a variety of ways. Haberstock said Mulhall and the race management team did an amazing job of making them feel welcome, important and needed by giving them responsibility with jobs like loading boats, recycling and garbage clean up, tent and equipment set up and take down to name a few.
“The amount of positive feedback they receive from the teams participating in the festival is absolutely amazing,” said Haberstock. “It really speaks volumes about the sport itself when you see the way they are accepted by everyone there. The festival sponsored our new red uniforms this season and the many of the paddlers were thrilled to show their appreciation by contributing in any way they could.”
Bjorndal said she likes the energy of the festival and the support of all the teams.
“You get off the boat and they are always cheering you on,” said Bjorndal, who along with Flying Dragons teammate Avery Newton was asked to help out Paddlemonium, who were short of people.
Bjorndal said it was a great experience with Paddlemonium as the team was fun to be with.
Charlene Naefken, a member of the Peach City Dragons, said it was nice to win the Mixed Gold division. They topped FLCC Spirit of Renegade by .55 seconds, 2:18.31 to 2:18.86.
“We had a good final race,” she said. “It’s a good way to end the season. There was some really good teams there. We had to work at bit at it.”