CHRIS BUSH/THE NEWS BULLETIN The Save-On-Foods Dragonslayers dragon boat team is practising for Nanaimo’s first-ever 1,500-metre dragonboat race event. The festival happens this weekend, July 5-7, at Maffeo Sutton Park and more than 60 teams will compete in Nanaimo Harbour.

Dragonboat festival brings ‘guts and glory’ to Nanaimo Harbour

Nanaimo’s first-ever 1,500-metre races added to this year’s schedule of events

The countdown is on for the Save-On-Foods Nanaimo Dragonboat Festival, which will include a new event that could leave even a real dragon out of steam.

This year’s festival runs Friday to Sunday, July 5-7, at Maffeo Sutton Park and, in a first for Nanaimo, will feature two 1,500-metre-long Guts and Glory races.

Mark Webster, team manager for the Save-On-Foods Dragonslayers, said compared to 200-metre sprints and 500-metre heats, the Guts and Glory is like a marathon.

“Your pace, your rate, your stroke pattern, everything, is roughly the same as the 500, you’re just doing it three times longer,” Webster said. “Maybe you’re holding back 10 per cent for the marathon, if you will, for the Guts and Glory, but it’s a long haul. It’s different.”

In terms of time, a 500-metre race will run about two to two and a half minutes. Guts and Glory requires hard paddling for seven to eight minutes. Also, the 200- and 500-metre races are run in a straight line. The Guts and Glory is a circuit course navigated by boats not designed to easily make tight turns and, depending on the layout of the course, the sharper the turn, the greater the difficulty for the team.

The Dragonslayers have run Guts and Glory races in other communities and each course layout depends on the shape of the body of water it’s laid out on. The team won’t find out what Nanaimo course layout will be until the start of the festival.

“I imagine we’ll see some kind of race grid beforehand, which our tiller will then have to figure how she’s going to be doing and arranging for the corners,” Webster said.

This year more than 60 teams from B.C., Alberta and the U.S. Pacific Northwest are competing in all races. The Nanaimo festival can handle a maximum of 72 teams. The number of teams competing in Nanaimo this year might be due to teams attending international competitions elsewhere.

“I think it’s going through a bit of a flux, but there’s also teams that are doing more world travelling … there’s so many dragon boat festivals all over the world – it’s an international sport – so some teams are going farther afield,” said Leslie Sutton, Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival Society spokeswoman.

On-shore and on the water, this year’s theme is Bollywood. Spectators will experience the colours and creativity resulting from the teams’ efforts in the festival’s team costume and tent decorating competitions and entertainment will feature dance performances showcasing cultures from around the world.

The Light of Courage event has replaced the candle ceremony that once commemorated friends and loved ones lost to cancer.

“People can light remembrances on it and then we’ll have a wall of courage where they can hang it up. So that’s new for us this year,” Sutton said.

The lanterns are on sale at Save-On-Foods stores and will be sold at the festival.

The festival needs lots of volunteers too, Sutton said.

“You get free food. Lots of high-fives … there’s a variety of jobs, so there’s something for everyone,” Sutton said. “Definitely the more volunteers we can get, the better.”

The Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival Society donates all net proceeds raised to the Nanaimo Hospital Foundation and Nanaimo Community Hospice Society and since the Nanaimo festivals started in 2003, it has donated more than $700,000 to improve diagnostics and treatment for breast cancer patients.

To learn more about becoming a volunteer and all other Nanaimo Dragonboat Festival details, visit www.nanaimodragonboat.com/.



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