Bette Ainsworth

Bette Ainsworth

Cancer survivor ready to race

NANAIMO – Bette Ainsworth, 86, plans to race in Save-On-Foods Nanaimo Dragonboat Festival this weekend.

At 86, Bette Ainsworth might just be the world’s oldest dragon boater.

Ainsworth is a four-time cancer survivor, going back to 1977 with a bout of skin cancer, two colon cancer occurrences and in 2006, breast cancer. She says the skin cancer doesn’t count.

At an international breast cancer regatta at Sarasota, Fla., last year Ainsworth was the oldest paddler out of nine participating countries.

“I think it finally got its message,” Ainsworth said. “It’s not going to get me so it may as well quit now.”

Ainsworth started as a supporter for breast cancer survivor team Angels Abreast, but her motivation was the loss of her husband, not cancer. They had a power boat, which she couldn’t handle by herself after he died. She feared she might never get back on the water. Then she saw an ad for Angels Abreast.

“So I went down and joined them and here I am,” Ainsworth said.

She’s been competing since and 12 years ago she recruited Greg Sigalet at age 11. Sigalet, now 23 and one of B.C.’s youngest coaches, guides co-ed team Angels and Demons, which formed in 2013 and has gained a reputation as a team to keep an eye on.

“We’re having fun, but we’re being competitive and we’re coming out hard,” Sigalet said.

He credits Ainsworth with getting him started.

“Bette Ainsworth is the reason I got into dragon boating,” Sigalet said. “She said I’m going to start a youth team. Do you want to help me with this? I steered for that team for many years. I was the youngest steers person in B.C. at one point because I was steering at 11 years old for both youth and adult teams and then I just kept going with it and now I coach.”

The sport has grown extensively and become more competitive over the years.

There are now more than a dozen teams in Nanaimo alone and there’s a movement to get more community involved with the sport by bringing businesses and organizations onboard through fundraising or trading, for example meeting space for paddling sessions, Sigalet said.

Dragon boating’s oldest and youngest competitors will be at Maffeo Sutton Park with thousands of paddlers and spectators, plus all the vendors and live entertainment expected at Nanaimo’s major festivals, Friday through Sunday (July 10-12) at the Save-On-Foods Nanaimo Dragonboat Festival.

To learn about everything planned for this year’s festival, please visit the the Nanaimo Dragonboat Society website at

Just Posted

Nanaimo Fire Rescue firefighters at the scene of a single-vehicle crash on Tenth Street near Southside Drive on Sunday, June 13. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Driver OK after crashing vehicle off the side of Nanaimo’s Tenth Street

Crews say wet roads a factor a crash Sunday, June 13

Emergency crews on scene of a two-car crash at the intersection of Cranberry Avenue and the Trans-Canada Highway on Sunday, June 13. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Crash blocks Cranberry intersection in Nanaimo, no one injured

Incident blocks both southbound lanes of Trans-Canada Highway

(PQB News file photo)
Fireworks report highlights enforcement challenges for Regional District of Nanaimo

Director: ‘I just think it’s wasting everybody’s time’

Nanaimo is the first city in Canada to subscribe to the Chonolog environment photo-monitoring system, which allow residents to contribute photos of habitat restoration projects that are converted to time lapse sequences showing environmental changes. (Chris Bush/ News Bulletin)
Nanaimo residents invited to be citizen scientists by sharing habitat restoration photos

Nanaimo first city in Canada to sign up for Chronolog environment photo monitoring service

An event on the lawn of the B.C. legislature in Victoria on Tuesday to remember the 215 children whose remains were confirmed buried in unmarked graves outside a Kamloops residential school. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Canada’s racist systems cannot ever be forgiven

Teen letter writer from Nunavut calls for truth and reconciliation

Emergency crews on scene of a two-car crash at the intersection of Cranberry Avenue and the Trans-Canada Highway on Sunday, June 13. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Crash blocks Cranberry intersection in Nanaimo, no one injured

Incident blocks both southbound lanes of Trans-Canada Highway

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps near Nanaimo

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

A section of proposed Harbourfront Walkway between White Eagle Terrace and Battersea Road. (City of Nanaimo image)
Nanaimo’s proposed walkway extension project estimated at $25-30 million

City asking for feedback on concepts to connect Departure Bay Beach and ferry terminal

City of Nanaimo council has approved amendments for an animal control bylaw requested by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. The bylaw includes language related to quail. (Wikipedia Commons photo)
Province asks for tweaks to Nanaimo’s animal responsibility bylaw

Ministry concerned bylaw wording could create municipal and provincial jurisdictional overlaps

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo hospital district seeks help from other districts for $1-billion project

Funding for Nanaimo Regional General Hospital patient tower discussed by committee

Stuffed toys, many with donations pinned to them, are piled in the Lions Pavilion at Maffeo Sutton Park at a vigil May 31 honouring the 215 Indigenous children whose remains were discovered outside a residential school in Kamloops. (News Bulletin file photo)
Thousands donated to child and family service agency following Nanaimo vigil

Toys and money donated to Kw’umut Lelum child and family services

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Most Read