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Eagles defend dragon boat title… again

Falcons make high school final, as Pemberton teams clean up



After capturing their sixth consecutive title in the Alcan Dragon Boat Festival’s high school category, coach Dr. Hugh Fisher is still at a loss to explain how the Laoyam Eagles do it every year.

"I can’t account for why they do so well. You look at some crews and you can see that they can do better because they have poor technique or something like that, but when you get into the competitive class they are all using good technique, the racers are good," said Fisher.

"(In the competitive class) they’re probably giving up 30 or 40 pounds per paddler compared to other crews. Maybe the lighter boats move better, but they’re not as strong either, so I don’t know."

Last year the Eagles barely won the high school title, edging out the Eric Hamber Secondary School in Vancouver.

"That was a rebuilding year for us, and they won by inches. This year they won convincingly again," said Fisher. "Last year we were mostly Grade 9s, and this year we were mostly Grade 10s. There were some older kids, but mostly Grade 10s, and they were up against Grade 12s from other schools.

"This was the strongest team I’ve seen yet. My feeling is that with this result the Eagles should probably be going to the club world championships, which are in Canada next year. It’s an open competition, but I think they would do quite well with another year under their belts."

The Eagles also competed in the Open events, and were seeded in the Competitive A Division after their first race against the top mixed adult teams. They missed the finals, but went on to win the consolation final.

"Last year the team won the Recreational A final, so this was even a step up from that," said Fisher.

The Falcons, the development team for the Eagles, also had a breakthrough year. They won their first race and were strong enough in subsequent races to make it to the finals, where they unfortunately were placed in the lane next to the Eagles. The Eagles took off quickly, leaving the Falcons in their wake.

"It was unfortunate, the Eagles took off so fast that in no time at all the Falcons were floundering around in the wash from the Eagles’ boat," said Fisher.

The Falcons were last in that heat, but it was still an improvement over 2004 when they won the consolation round.

Other Pemberton teams and paddlers had success this year. Jeanette Helmer raced with the False Creek Masters team, which won the women’s category.

The Bald Eagles, a mixed team, finished second overall in the regatta by a 50th of a second. "We were just a thumb and forefinger behind, that’s how close we were," said Fisher, who rowed with that team.

The Pemberton Spirit, a women’s team, won the B Division Open category, improving on last year’s results as well.

Fisher also raced on a team called Dangerous Cliffs, named after a friend who passed away this year. That team finished second to the strong False Creek squad in the men’s race.

"Overall, I think it’s the best results we’ve ever had," said Fisher. "People look at our teams and can’t believe how well we do.

"People say you must have a fantastic course and great equipment and train all the time, and we say, ‘no, we have One Mile Lake, which is a little puddle, we train twice a week… for the last 10 weeks.’

"I really don’t know what it is. I’ve been with the (Eagles) a week out and I think they’re not training well, not where they should be maybe, and then they come through. Every time."