Dragon boat festival paddles to success

Is it possible to improve something that went so well?

Two teams battle for the lead as they head to the finish line in the annual Raymond James Dragon Boat Festival mixed finals at Skaha Lake Sunday. Nearly 2

Two teams battle for the lead as they head to the finish line in the annual Raymond James Dragon Boat Festival mixed finals at Skaha Lake Sunday. Nearly 2

Is it possible to improve something that went so well?

Asked if there was anything that could be improved in the Raymond James Dragon Boat Festival, organizer Don Mulhall was nearly stumped.

“I’m afraid to even say it before the event is over,” said Mulhall, on Sunday afternoon as the two-day festival at Skaha Lake was nearly complete. “Everything has been running beautifully. Honestly, this has been perfect.”

Sunny skies with a nice breeze topped the stage for paddlers. Mulhall said Mother Nature was “phenomenal” and went just as Environment Canada said it would. The finals began in the morning with the Breast Cancer Challenge and Breast Friends from Edmonton remains champs, followed by Penticton’s Survivorship, Spirit Warriors and Calgary’s Sistership.

“They have been chasing down a team (Breast Friends) from Edmonton the past three years,” said Mulhall, who coaches the Survivorship. “Catching, but half a boat behind.”

Maureen Lutz of Survivorship said it wasn’t disappointing to lose by four seconds. They are able to handle defeat because they have won their share of medals.

“We want everybody to be able to paddle who meets the criteria, which unfortunately is not a great one,” said Lutz, adding they have five new members. “We’re 12 years older than when we first started. The competition does get fiercer. You have to put it in perspective. We are also out there to give a message and to have fun.”

Lutz added that they do like the competitive push saying it’s healthy and it makes it more fun.

While Sistership of Calgary didn’t like their result, they were happy with their performance. Training on a reservoir that provides the city’s drinking water, which creates some controversy, Sistership concerns itself more with doing things right on the water.

“We have been here three or four years,” said Sistership president Deidre Palik, adding that coming to Penticton extends their summer and gives them the chance to finish the year with a strong performance. “It’s one of our favourite festivals. It’s just a very fun environment.”

As for their provincial foes, Breast Friends, Palik said they rock.

“We’ve got a friendly rivalry there,” she said of the dragon boat version of the Battle of Alberta. “Very close to the Breast Friends team. It used to be more equally competitive. In last few years Edmonton’s training has ramped up a notch and it’s showing. We are happy for them. It inspires us to do the same.”

During the two days, crews of 20 paddled 500-metres in two to three minutes. Since 2009, the festival has grown from 44 teams to 87 this year. Mulhall said he had people suggesting they increase the number of teams to 100.

“I have never said the word 100 in Penticton in the same sentence,” joked Mulhall. “At some point we have to stop. I can’t have boats racing from here to Kaleden.”

For full results, check http://uploads.gorowandpaddle.org/results/2011/PDBF2011_SundayResults.pdf.