With just weeks to go before the international Alcan Dragon Boat Festival in Vancouver, a group of four Pemberton Dragon Boat teams are looking as strong as ever.
At a pair of regattas at False Creek last weekend, the Pemberton Spirit Womens Team, the Laoyam Falcons youth development team, the champion Laoyam Eagles, and the Bald Eagles either won or placed second in their divisions.
The Laoyam Falcons, a new team for students in Grades 7 to 9, won two out of three heats in their division to take the title. What made their debut all the more impressive was the fact that they were racing against mostly adult teams.
"I was very proud of the success of our development team," said coach Hugh Fisher.
Not only did they win their division finals, the Falcons also posted the fastest time of any of the division finals, crossing 500 metres in two minutes and 25 seconds.
In the False Creek Womens Regatta, the Pemberton Spirit won the recreational division. About two-thirds of the Pemberton Spirit paddlers are new to the sport this year, with just seven veterans from last years team on the water Sunday.
They got off to a slow start in their first competition, finishing second out of three experienced teams, and ended up in the recreational division. They won their next two races to take the recreational title and finish sixth overall behind some veteran teams. Overall, coach Jeanette Callahan was pleased with the groups first outing of the season.
The national champion Laoyam Eagles, Canadas representative at the World Junior Dragon Boat Championships, were in top form as always, with their toughest competition of the regatta being the Bald Eagles, a group of adult paddlers, including parents and graduates of the Laoyam Eagles. Both teams dominated in their opening heats before meeting each other in the second heat. The junior team took that race, followed closely by the seniors.
They met again later that day, and this time it was the Bald Eagles on top with a time of 2:07, two seconds ahead of the juniors.
"First and second place are great results for our program," said Fisher. "The results are probably most important to the juniors. They win most of their races and this new rivalry will make them hungry to train for the win. The fact that our adult team has several parents and graduates on board made the race very exciting."
The Pemberton teams will be back in action at the international Alcan Dragon Boat Festival in Vancouver from June 13 to 15. All four teams will be competing in the event against more than 4,000 paddlers from across North America.