Dragon boat festival to welcome thousands of paddlers

Penticton Dragon Boat Festival has 82 teams competing over the weekend

PENTICTON'S DRAGON BOAT Festival has attracted more than 80 team's for this weekend's event. Last year

PENTICTON'S DRAGON BOAT Festival has attracted more than 80 team's for this weekend's event. Last year

One of the biggest sporting events in the Okanagan has just gotten bigger.

The Penticton Dragon Boat Festival, also considered one of the largest in B.C., has attracted 82 teams, nine more than the previous year. Among those teams are 33 new squads.

“That’s a huge positive. We’ve got lots of returning champions,” said organizer Don Mulhall. “I think the competition will be great.”

Penticton welcomes more than 2,000 paddlers with action starting Saturday at 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. at Skaha Lake. Finals begin Sunday at noon following the breast cancer survivor ceremony, which begins at 11:30 a.m. Sunday’s action goes until about 4 p.m. Mulhall said the festival has become a season-highlight for several teams across the province and Alberta. Mulhall added having it in September is a plus for the area when the weather is still great and tourism slows. Jeanette Tran of the Calgary Dragon Boat Club Yahoo Angels said its the third time their team competes.

“Penticton has always been a festival our team has looked forward to attending,” she wrote in an email. “The festival attracts competitive teams from the coast and local area giving our team some great race experience. One of the unique elements of the Penticton festival is the vast number of women’s teams in attendance, which truly offers competition for our women’s team.”

Tran added that the beauty of Penticton allows their team members to make a holiday out of the weekend.

“A great way to end our paddling season,” she said.

The festival will see teams of 20 paddlers (plus a drummer and steer person) on both mixed and women’s crews racing the 15-metre canoes in 500-metre sprints. Several of Penticton’s womens teams are expected to be among the top boats and are anticipated to be in the final. Despirit Housewives are looking to continue their winning streak, following racing success in Victoria and a top placing in Kelowna. The Dragon Bottoms are also looking for more cups to fill having been a top team in Vernon. Mixed team Peach City Dragons are eager for a win after having placed second at Penticton’s Sprint races and Vernon’s Dragon Boat Festival.  Penticton has 11 crews racing. In the breast cancer category, Survivorship is looking to win the Dale Charles Memorial cup back, ending a long drought at their home festival.

“We’d love to see the public come down to view the racing,” said Mulhall. “The race course is entirely along the beach and there’s a race starting every 11 minutes with some races coming down to thousands of a second difference between teams.”

The event will also feature a beverage garden with proceeds to Survivorship, food vendors and a market.

The medals and awards, including trophies for Top Women’s Crew, Top Breast Cancer Survivor Crew, Top Okanagan Crew and Top Crew Overall will be presented in the beverage garden Sunday afternoon. For more information, go to www.pentictondragonboat.com.

For more information, go to www.pentictondragonboat.com .