The Northern Spirit dragon boat crew get some practice in ahead of their June regatta. FULL STORY ON PAGE 7. Photo Gerry Leibel

Dragon boat paddlers gear up for regatta

The all-woman Northern Spirit dragon boat team has taken to the water in preparation for a regatta that will take place in Vancouver in June.

Team member Cheryl Rumley said the team of 20 paddlers, a drummer and the steersperson, will compete in the Concord Pacific Vancouver Dragonboat Festival from June 23 to 25, competing alongside 4,000 other paddlers in the women-only division.

Rumley said the northern teams always face a challenge when competing in the regattas because of the time limited practice they have.

“We’re not as fortunate as the teams down south. Whereas they practice all year round, we only start in April when the weather allows,” said Rumley.

The Northern Spirit is owned by the team, which does its own fundraising, cajoling and convincing husbands and partners to help out with the boat’s maintenance.

“This is the group’s second boat which we’ve had for four years. This one was made in Vancouver,” said Rumley. “The typical boat can cost between $10 and $15,000.”

The group will take 24 members down to Vancouver to compete, each team member paying their own way. While there are other dragon boat competitions in B.C., the team chose the Vancouver regatta to compete in.

There are three teams that launch dragon boats out of Minette Bay Marina, Northern Spirit, Free Spirit (another all-women team) and Tragically Quick (a mixed team).

The boats are usually in the water from April to October, after which they are taken out and transported to storage facilities for winter.

Rumley said Northern Spirit mostly organizes recruiting drives in the early part of the year before April.

This year the team recruited nine new paddlers.