Ninety-one teams and each of its 20 paddlers had one goal — reach the finish line as quick as they could.
The only difference was how important it was to them to be the first to accomplish the feat. Jo-Ann Millross of Kelowna’s Tip Em Back won the Mixed Platinum A final earning the fastest time of all teams at 1:56.07.
“I think our secret is that we have fun, and we’re relaxed,” said Millross. “Once we get on the boat, we all want to win. We have that drive to go that next level. That is something you can’t teach. We just don’t take it seriously. We want to win, but at the same time, not at the expense of losing the fun aspect.”
Millross said prior to the final, she hoped they could return to Kelowna with “a little gold bling bling” and they did.
The Wrecked Pirates, which joined forces with the Wrecking Crew out of the Fraser Valley, enjoyed the weekend. Norm Torp, a member of the Pirates, said they do their best to represent their club.
“It’s one of our favourite venues,” said Torp, mentioning they have a team bylaw, which requires them to enjoy a special drink prior to racing. “The weather is traditionally excellent. It’s a very comfortable, relaxed venue.”
Torp said this year’s event attracted a good cross section of teams.
“The competition is always good,” he said. “You see really good racing right through the finals.”
The Wrecked Pirates advanced to the Mixed Diamond A finals with two other club members, which he said makes for good rivalries. At the end, it was the Chilliwack Crusaders, who came out on top, finishing in 2:03.49. The Wrecked Pirates were third at 2:04.14. The other Fraser Valley team were the Thunder Strokes.
Peter Bailey of the Thunder Strokes echoed Torp’s sentiments on the teams.
“It’s a great collection of teams,” said Bailey. “Teams are highly competitive with really strong paddlers.”
The Thunder Strokes have taken part in the Raymond James Dragon Boat Festival for several years. The dragon boat crew loves ending their season with the two-day event.
While the competition is good, Bailey noted the relationships with other paddlers is the same. The paddlers share camaraderie. It’s not uncommon for paddlers to help other teams who may be short of people in their boats.
Don Mulhall, the race organizer, said the event was successful. The only dark cloud was having to cancel some Saturday heats to due to heavy winds.
“Safety is number one priority, and our water crews, including the race starter felt the conditions were too much to safely continue,” said Mulhall. “We delayed for an hour, to see if the conditions would improve. When they didn’t, we met with all the teams to explain our decision, and how we would proceed through the remainder of the racing starting Sunday morning. I have to say the teams were awesome, theycfully understood and appreciated the call being made.”
As for the success of the Penticton teams, three placed second. The Peach City Dragons made the B final of the mixed jade and finished in 2:12.64. 22 In Sync recorded a time of 2:22.44 in the women B Gold final, while Paddlemonium reached the end in the women Jade A final in 2:19.90. The Golden Dragons placed third in the Mixed Gold B final, while Dragon Bottoms were also third in the women Diamond A final. In fourth for the women Gold G final were the Hidden Dragons Crouching Cougars, while the Despirit Housewives had the same position in the women Platinum B final. Survivorship placed fifth in the breast cancer challenge A final and O’kai I’Kicka U’as was fifth in the Mixed Platinum A final.
The HSBC Flying Dragons (Penticton team), the first in Canada for developmentally disabled adults, performed outstandingly, according to their coach, Mulhall. They bested their 500-metre practice time, then bested it again in their second race.
“Any team’s first festival can be a very distracting experience,” said Mulhall, who also coaches Survivorship. “Being on the start line with four other crews, and thousands of people on the shore can make it hard to stay focused. They were phenomenal.”
Mulhall was also impressed with the residents of Penticton taking notice of the event.
“We had lots of spectators watching the races, enjoying the festival side of things with the food vendors, market; and the beverage garden was busy.”
The event also grew by four teams as 87 took partclast year.