Saturday’s weather wasn’t doing much to attract swimmers or sunbathers to the beach — but it was about perfect for the eleventh annual Harrison Dragon Boat Regatta.
Sixty-eight teams, each with 20 to 25 members, took over for the beach for most of the day, running through 48 races. Heats started near the public boat launch and ended near the front of the Harrison Hotel.
Regatta director and long-time president of the local Fraser Valley Dragon Boat Club, Scott Farrell said, “Most of us got really drenched on Friday, setting up for the races. We had about 25 to 30 volunteers helping.”
Saturday, the clouds sometimes looked threatening — but they held their load till Sunday’s big downpour.
Farrell praised the local volunteers who turned out to help on Saturday. Many are local citizens or friends of club members who simply want to help out, he said.
“We had 60 to 75 volunteers show up throughout the day,” said Farrell. “Most of them are non-paddlers but they keep showing up year after year.
“Ann Phelps, who organizes the Rio Tinto event in Vancouver, says she’d like to take all of our volunteers with her for her event.”
Farrell said the extra hands made things run smoothly, including the clean up, with the First Agassiz Scout troop taking care of all the recycling.
“We raced from 8:30 to 5:18, so we were only three minutes behind schedule — and when it was over, all the members of the Fraser Valley club dropped everything to help out.
“By 7 o’clock, you wouldn’t even know we’d had an event there. Dragon boaters are a conscientious group,” he said.
Teams paid as much as $935 to take part, with a guarantee of four races. The first was a 200-meter sprint, followed by three 500-metre races.
Timing and refereeing were done by G2G Race Management of Vancouver, which supplied the race-timing clocks and cameras. To maintain consistency, twelve matching boats were rented from the Dragon Zone club of False Creek in Vancouver.
After the first two races your times are combined, then you’re placed with teams of like ability for the last two races,” explained Farrell, a Chilliwack resident.
Teams which practice out of the Harrison-based FVDB club are two all-female teams, the Spitfires and Seraphins and four mixed teams: the Thunderstrokers, Pirates, the Spirit of the Fraser Valley junior team and the generic “Club Team” that brings together people who cannot commit to scheduled practices or competitions.
Club vice-president, Dale Kjemhus of Hope, said the Club Team did surprisingly well on the weekend, finishing sixth in the “A” final for eighteenth overall out of 42 mixed teams.
Kjemhus (pronounced “SHAY-mus”) paddled for the club’s Thunder Strokers team, which took silver in the “A” final, giving them the club’s top finish in the last two years at Harrison.
In both the women’s and mixed divisions, the top teams were elevated to the competitive heats, which the ‘Strokers missed by a few strokes.
The Seraphins include five paddlers from the Agassiz-Harrison area and they had the best finish of the local women, taking Silver in the “B” final, for fourteenth out of 26.
Seraphins’ coach, Trish Kjemhus said, “It was a really strong finish for them. We had some new paddlers who hadn’t raced 500 metres before, so this gave them the confidence that they’re able to compete.
“The first boat was 2 minutes 37.9 seconds and we were 2:38.1. Sometimes, it’s down to whether you’re pulling or gliding at the finish line.”
The club has 122 members, with over 20 of them coming from the Agassiz-Harrison area. Others are from Hope, Chilliwack, Abbotsford and Mission. Club paddlers can be seen on the lake most days of the week. For more information about the club, see their website at fvdbc.com.