More than 1,200 people hit the water Saturday for the 13th annual Sudbury Dragon Boat Festival. They raced across Lake Ramsey in the name of fun, competition and charity.
"We had a fundraising goal of about $40,000 and we’re at least 10 per cent above that already and all the money is not in at this time," Jim Smith, chair of the festival's organizing committee, said.
The funds from this year's festival are being donated to Meals on Wheels. One hundred per cent of the funds collected by participants through pledges go to the charity. In the past 13 years, the festival has collected roughly $1.5 million for various charities in the community.
Aside from the funds raised, Smith was happy to announce the number of teams participating had grown since last year's festival — there were 58 teams on the water, including a handful from out of town.
"It's a sport that anyone can do," he said. "The stroke is simple if you’re just out as a recreational paddler and it’s a lot of fun when you’re in the boat.
"There’s splashing, there’s laughing, but when it comes to race time ... all the laughing and smiling stops and it’s very competitive. You’re racing against a friend in the next boat and that always turns out to be a good thing."
That was exactly the case for Thunder from Down Under, one of five teams entered by Vale.
It was the company's newest team to enter the fold, but the rookies held their own — they came third in their first race against the other Vale teams.
“For our first year, we’re doing good and we have good spirit," Steve Bangs, a Thunder paddler, said.
While the team’s main focus was on supporting the charity, they admitted “we don’t like losing.”
“It’s an inside challenge we have going on with the other Vale teams, but at the end of the day, it’s all fun and games," Bangs said.
The Galley Girls were having fun, too. But out on the water, the all-girls team from Ottawa was all business.
"We have our sights set on the World Championships in Italy in 2014 so we want to race as much as we can and get as much competition as we can," Joanne M. Licari, Galley Girls team captain, said.
Always on the lookout for a good competition and new venues, the girls caught wind of Sudbury's festival and decided to make the trek west to the Nickel City this summer.
"We heard a lot about this festival so we wanted to come try it out," Licari said. "The venue’s great and the water’s awesome and we’re really happy we came."
And the team was happy with the level of the competition as well.
"We’re racing mixed crews and that’s what we’re looking for. I think a couple people are surprised but we put a lot of work into it. We’re on the water three times a week so we’re pretty committed."
Licari said a lot of people underestimate her squad of female paddlers.
"We actually had some guys beside us at the tent saying ‘I can’t believe those girls smoked us and now they’re doing their nails," she said with a laugh. "We’re still women to the (highest) degree."
For more information on the Sudbury Dragon Boat Festival, or results from this year's races, visit www.sudburydragonboats.org.
Posted by Laurel Myers