Dragon boats get windy excitement

Windy conditions added excitement to the 13th annual Penticton Dragon Boat Festival during the weekend.

DRUMMER JENNIFER MONAI checks the progress of her Peach City Dragons during action on the final day of competition Sunday at the annual Penticton Dragon Boat Festival on Skaha Lake. Over 2

DRUMMER JENNIFER MONAI checks the progress of her Peach City Dragons during action on the final day of competition Sunday at the annual Penticton Dragon Boat Festival on Skaha Lake. Over 2

Windy conditions added excitement to the 13th annual Penticton Dragon Boat Festival during the weekend.

Race director Don Mulhall said Mother Nature made enough of an impact to put a smile on the face of race crews and strike a little fear in him.

“Wind and stuff, it just creates the potential for mishaps,” said Mulhall. “Teams were all raving about how exciting the racing was.”

Mulhall said the event finished up as another great festival thanks to volunteer support. He was also pleased with the local crews that showed improvements.

“All of our teams seemed to have raised the bar a bit,” said Mulhall.

He was impressed with the Flying Dragons, made up of paddlers with an intellectual disability.

“I don’t have the times from last year, but I know that their times were better,” he said. “Just watching them, they looked fabulous.”

Two women’s teams made it to the platinum division playoffs. Despirit Houswives, who won in Vernon two weeks ago, finished seventh overall and third in the A final. The Penticton Dragon Bottoms were fourth in the platinum B final.

Cheryl Hallsted, captain of the Dragon Bottoms, watched as her team crossed the finish line in (two minutes, 27 seconds) behind FLCC Fort Fury, which won in two minutes, 24 seconds, FLCC Dragon Alliance and FLCC Fraser Dragons, took third in two minutes, 26 seconds.

Hallsted said they performed very well.

“Each year we have gotten better and better and better,” she said. “It shows the dedication of the paddlers. We have people aged 25 to 70, quite a diverse group. It makes such a difference to have all abilities and all ages in the boat and yet everyone work together.”

Hallsted was forced to watch after she injured her arm falling off her bike before the event.

“I was so disappointed not to be able to get back on the boat. It was almost as painful as going down on my bike, but not quite,” she laughed.

The Peach City Dragons, a mixed team, finished third in the platinum B final.

Patricia Wright of the Eh Team, a senior crew in the False Creek Racing Canoe Club, said they performed very well during the weekend prior to their first place result in the mixed gold C final.

“We are concentrating on technique rather than worrying about winning,” said Wright, adding that the competition is strong.

The only thing Wright, 80, didn’t like about the weekend was the unsportsmanlike behaviour of some teams. One team began badmouthing their coach and swearing at her.

“Should be beneath anyone at this level of competition,” she said. “I’m very disappointed in that. Outside of that everything has been lovely. Good, happy atmosphere. It’s a beautiful venue.”

Shawn Varrow of Kelowna’s Fire on Water women’s team, said they love the festival.

“The venue is good. Being from Kelowna it’s nice and close,” he said. “Really good competition.”

Fire on Water placed second in the platinum A final, losing to Creekside Impact, who reached the finish line first in 2:18.72, while Fire on Water crossed the line in 2:19.19. Varrow was pleased with his paddlers’ performance and hoped for a win as they have won in the past. Varrow said what makes the festival good is the strong competition.

“It’s kind of a year-end festival for everybody,” he said. “this is the big one.”