Around 2,000 racers are expected to attend the 22nd annual Penticton Dragonboat Festival this weekend .
The 500-metre sprint races are held directly off the sandy beach, with a new race starting every 11 minutes on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 9 and 10.
Spectators will have a clear view of dozens of races and can take part in the moving breast cancer survivor ceremony on Sunday morning.
“We have 76 teams coming here. The races are exciting to watch. We are stoked for the festival to begin,” said festival organizer Don Mulhall. “We are actually bigger than Ironman and about the same size as Gran fondo but people don’t realize that because we don’t take over any roads and are tucked away at Skaha Lake.
“We’d love to see more spectators out. It’s a great festival and the racing is exciting, short and fast-paced and you can view it from the beach. It doesn’t get better than that.”
In addition to the thrilling races, there will be a vendors market, food trucks, and a beverage garden to enjoy in Skaha Lake Park.
Dragon boat teams from as far as Calgary, Squamish and Vancouver Island are competing along with a large number of Okanagan competitors.
The breast cancer ceremony where nine breast cancer survivor dragon boats are expected to pull up to the beach and take part, laying pink carnations in the water takes place at 11 a.m. The ceremony is followed by breast cancer boat races.
Mulhall has coached Penticton’s Survivorship boat for many years.
He also coaches the Peach City Dragons, a local mixed team that is vying for a top spot in the finals. He also coaches the Golden Dragons seniors team.
One of the teams he is most proud to coach is the Flying Dragons which is a local team with intellectual disabilities.
“I’ve coached them for the past six years and they have been waiting for Saturday for a long time. Not only do they race in an exhibition at 9 a.m. but afterward they become our volunteers for the day, helping load and offload boats,” he said.
“They get high fives and thank yous all day long. One of the dads said to me, ‘My son gets more positive interaction on one day than the entire year.’”
Weather permitting, they are hoping to host the Greatest Steering Fun Race on Saturday around 3:30 p.m. Twenty teams have entered the 500 sprint where they paddle backwards and then have to go through the buoys.
In all, there are about 300 local dragonboaters which is ‘pretty good for a small town,’ said Mulhall.
Ones to watch in the finals in the women’s races is Skaha Thunder and 22 and Sync, he added.
Races start around 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. both days.
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