It is sure to be a busy weekend on Skaha Lake with the annual Penticton Dragon Boat Festival taking place, and two visiting teams are excited to be a part of the action.
The Navy Dragon Anchors, a Victoria-based team comprised of members of at the Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Esquimalt, are looking forward to defending their championship title from last year’s festival. This will be no easy feat as they are just one of 69 teams competing, including six local ones and the Flying Dragons special needs crew.
“Whenever we go to a festival, we always go to win,” says Bob Wiggins, a retired Navy chief petty officer first class and coxswain, in a release. “Doesn’t matter what it is. The worst we have done this year is second in two festivals and we have won three.”
The team has been competing in the annual festival, which is in its 19th year, since 2012 and have opted to compete in the B.C. event rather than travelling to race in Portland, Oreg., for their annual festival. Wiggins said this is because they love the people and the enjoying the companionship of their competitors.
Given their backgrounds in the military, it comes as no surprise that the team enjoys the mechanical rhythm of dragon boat paddling.
“We carry our paddles like they are rifles,” said Wiggins. “We sing various songs, Heart of Oak (the official march of the Royal Canadian Navy.)”
For the CBC Wavecatchers, the festival is an opportunity to have fun on the water with teammates and friends.
“We are quite a capital R – recreational team,” said Belle Puri, reporter/produce with CBC Vancouver who has come to Penticton since 2010 with the CBC Wavecatchers. “We just like to be together and be on the water.”
But that’s not to say that the team hasn’t had their fair share of excitement and mishaps during the festival in years past.
“Once we were in a collision. Another boat rammed us. There were no injuries,” she says. “We still ended up with a bronze. We were going for gold. Two years ago, the wind came up and the conditions changed in the qualifying races. Somehow we were the only boat that stayed on course. We won that race, which, that’s the good side, that we were now competing on Sunday with really competitive teams. We thought that was pretty funny.”
Unfortunately, the team ended up coming in last that next day, but only four seconds behind the next team, which Puri added was still a “huge victory for them.”
The festival kicks off at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 7, and wraps up with its last events at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 8. For a full schedule or more information, visit www.pentictondragonboat.com.
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