Drumming for success on the waterways

The eleventh annual Harrison Dragon Boat Regatta took over Harrison Beach on Saturday.

Coach Trish Kjemhus sets the pace with her drum

Coach Trish Kjemhus sets the pace with her drum

Saturday’s weather wasn’t doing much to attract swimmers to the beach — but it was just about perfect for the eleventh annual Harrison Dragon Boat Regatta.

Nine Hope-area paddlers took part in the one-day event, which was organized by former Silver Creek resident Scott Farrell, who now resides in Chilliwack.

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.

Farrell, a long-time president of the local Fraser Valley Dragon Boat Club 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 deluge. We raced from 8:30 a.m. to 5:18 p.m., 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.”

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.

“After the first two races your times are combined, then you’re placed with teams of similar ability for the last two races,” explained Farrell, a Chilliwack resident.

Teams that practice out of the Harrison-based FVDB club are two all-female teams, the Spitfires and Seraphins, along with four mixed teams: the Thunder Strokers, 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 68 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.

Coquihalla Elementary’s principal, Monique Gratrix is also a paddler for the Thunder Strokers, as is Coquihalla teacher Linda Bailey.

Bailey and Trish Kjemhus got hooked on the sport in 2005 and their husbands soon joined them. Peter Bailey, Linda and Dale paddle for the Strokers and the two men share steering roles for the Seraphins — which is otherwise an all-female team. Trish serves as coach and drummer/caller for both teams.

The Seraphins have four paddlers from the Hope area and they had the best finish of the local women, taking Silver in the “B” final, for a placement of fourteenth out of 26 women’s teams.

“It was a really strong finish for them. We had some new paddlers who hadn’t raced 500 metres before, so this gave them confidence to compete,” said Trish. “The first boat was two minutes 37.9 seconds and we were 2:38.1 seconds — sometimes, it’s down to whether you’re pulling or gliding at the finish line.”

Sara McIntosh, who lives in Chilliwack but teaches at Coquihalla, is a solid paddler for the Seraphins.

“We were excited to win our second silver medal of the season. We love hosting the event and sharing our amazing venue with so many other paddlers — and we’re thankful for the many volunteers who helped make the event possible,” she said.

Dale said the club has about 130 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.