During May 2017, Esther Matsubuchi received the prestigious Courage To Come Back award at a sold-out gala. She gave a speech and confided she planned to deal with her public speaking jitters by imagining she was in a dragon boat race and as she settled in at the microphone (the start line), she would take a few deep breaths, relax her shoulders and focus in the boat.
It all began when Vince, a Grand Dragon, approached Abreast In A Boat (AIAB) and challenged us to have a FUN race. At the time, he was the ONLY prostate cancer survivor who knew how to paddle a dragon boat, but he was ever hopeful he could gather a crew from among his Prostate Support Group friends. We had a chat over coffee and then the full story began to unfold.
The Vancouver International DB Committee and the folks at Dragon Zone were all keen to host the BIG race. Vince filled, not one, but two boats !! Dragon Zone has given them boats, practice time and steers assistance. The Vancouver International DB committee has arranged media coverage for the Showdown.
A rehearsal practice was held at Dragon Zone on Friday, June 10th, but the REAL Challenge Race happens at Dragon Zone on Friday, June 17th @ 6:30pm at the start of the weekend regatta.
There will be two boats full of brave prostate survivors. Their team name is Butts In A Boat. AIAB will have two composite boats (from our six crews) eager to show the boys how girls paddle!! It promises to be a FUN evening, not to be missed. Plan to bring family and friends along to cheer for your team.
Of course, the most important message is “living well” after a diagnosis of cancer.
Donations are welcome!
Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – BC/Yukon (CBCF) @ www.cbcf.org
Never thought that HOPE was tangible, had colours and shapes until we met with the Argentine novices last February. Hope has replaced loneliness and fear and changed their lives forever!
The promise was, “As soon as the boats touch the Argentina’s water we will accompany you in the very first steps in dragon boating. This was true on February 2016. The very first dragon boats ever entered the country in December 2015 giving just two months to organize an adventure of Hope.
A group of Abreast In A Boat® members from the Deas Divas crew travelled to Argentina in February, 2016 to help with start-up of the first four breast cancer survivor dragon boat teams in South America.
Abreast In A Boat thanks the many world-wide contributors to the 20th Anniversary Memento Book. The Book celebrates and commemorates the founding in 1996 of breast cancer dragon boat paddling and the international phenomenon it has since become. AIAB extends special thanks to Jane Frost, President of the International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission for her leadership in producing such a wonderful Memento Book.
It’s been a long 2014 season and a summer filled with practices. Our crew, Abreast In A Boat – FORT-itude packs up our paddles and on Aug. 28 we board the plane to Venice, Italy. After a 5 hour bus ride we are in Ravenna, where the CCWC dragon boat races are to be held. Our hotel is on the outskirts of the beautiful old town of Ravenna, about 30 minute walk. Perfect for staying in shape and getting some exercise!
After two days of exploring the town, we are ready to be on the water.
Day 1 – It’s the morning of our first practice, and we wake up to howling winds and pouring rain. We did not anticipate this type of weather! We arrive at the race site and are greeted by many teams who are leaving. We are told all practices have been cancelled. The water is too rough, two boats have already been swamped and at least one steers has gone overboard. What a huge disappointment!
Day 2 – The wind is still blowing, but the rain has stopped. We are able to get on the water for a one hour practice; we practice our “starts” and our “turns” as we have our 2000 metre race the next day. What a rush! The first stroke away from the dock and we are in whitecaps with water splashing into our faces and bodies.
FORTitude’s Own CCWC “Opening Ceremonies”
Tonight is the opening ceremonies, but we are in for another disappointment. The bus system organized by the Italian Dragon Boat Federation is simply not ready for the number of teams in attendance, and has not calculated the number of buses needed to get us back and forth to the race site where the opening ceremonies are to be held. After two hours of waiting in the parking lot of our hotel, we realize we are not going to be attending the ceremonies. We make the best of something we cannot control and have our own parade in the parking lot. Our supporter’s take a video and photos with our Canadian flag and AIAB banner.
CCWC Bronze medal winners in the 2000 meter!
Day 3 – It’s race time! We are so ready! Nervous, but ready! The weather still looks bad, the wind is still blowing, and we are told we can only have 16 paddlers in the boat. After making some difficult decisions, we ask 6 paddlers to sit out. We’re in the marshalling area and ready to load when we’re told that we can have 18 paddlers in the boat. Joy! We love the 2000 metre race. The teams are sent out every 15 seconds, and we are the last team to start. We know what we need to do. Stay aggressive as though we are paddling 4 – 500 metre races. Stick with our strategy. We need to paddle past some of the other teams in front of us. WE DO IT! It’s not until we get to the dock and unload that we learn we have come in 3rd place, and have won Bronze. Gail Bonner, our manager is on shore, jumping up and down with 3 fingers in the air! Canada wins 1st and 3rd, with Australia coming in 2nd.
Day 4 – We have the 200 metre sprints today, with the preliminary races to start. The top 6 teams move onto the Grand Final. We’re in! The races are so close, the Rowbust team from London, Ontario is amazing and so strong; it’s hard to believe they once travelled the same road of breast cancer surgery and treatment as all of us. Rowbust, Dragons Abreast, Australia and Dragonheart, Vermont, U.S.A. seem to be our closest competitors with all of our times being very close. Despite having our best time ever, 58 seconds, Vermont edges us out for 3rd place in the Grand Final.
Abreast In A Boat – FORTitude at Ravenna War Memorial Gravesite
We have a day off between the 200 metre and 500 metre races so ten of our crew visit the Ravenna War Cemetery. One of our unique outreach opportunities presented itself before we left Langley. It happened when a Langley veteran, 92 year old Bill Nicholson, saw an article in the paper about our upcoming trip to Ravenna. He contacted Carol Short & Cheryl Watson to ask if they might place a poppy on the grave of a Langley soldier who was killed in Ravenna during World War 2. Carol & Cheryl met with Bill and his wife, (who was a breast cancer survivor) the week before leaving Langley to learn of his story and to get his poppy. Seeing the cemetery with its rows and rows of crosses is a very emotional experience, but we are happy to fulfil Bill’s wish. We take photos and a video which we will take to Bill.
The next day we are racing the 500 metre event. The waters are a little calmer today, and as we back our boat into the start line, we are nervous; we know the competition is strong. The first race will determine if we get into the Grand Final. Our families and friends are watching, as are two other women’s crews from our Fort Langley Club. The venue is perfect for spectators; they can see the entire race from the stands lining the course. It isn’t our best race, but we make it to the finals. We need to be more focused in the next race. We are ready to put it all on the line and paddle with passion. It is a really close race and we don’t know where we finish. It takes at least 10 minutes to get waved to the dock to unload. Gail is there with a very big grin on her face. It’s a Bronze Medal!
There is such a good feeling of instant friendship amongst the breast cancer teams. By chance, we meet some of the paddlers from the Florence Dragon Ladies team on the street in Ravenna, (one is wearing a CIBC Run For The Cure shirt), and we have found a home for the paddles that we do not want to take back on the plane. We plan to meet the “Ladies” after our final race to give the paddles to them. We learn after arriving home that the team has 11 new paddlers, and our paddles will go to them.
CCWC in Ravenna, all breast cancer crews celebrate!
During the 10 days we are in Ravenna and at the race site, we spread our message. We have been on trains, planes and buses and we hand out our AIAB brochures which we have had translated into 2 dozen different languages. We speak with mixed and women’s teams, with senior and junior teams, all from many countries, including Holland, Israel and Dubai. The 13 breast cancer teams attending the CCWC belong here. We make our presence known on the world stage, and prove beyond a doubt that there is a full life after breast cancer surgery and treatment. We are strong, and healthy and with regular exercise we can reduce our chance of recurrence. It’s been a great 10 days in Ravenna. We’re proud of the difference we made.
VANCOUVER GLOBAL BC – They are all survivors, living through a battle against cancer, and last weekend they saved a man’s life.
The FLCC Fort-itude (Fort Langley Canoe Club, part of Abreast In A Boat) dragon boat team was about to begin its usual Saturday practice session in Fort Langley last Saturday, when they heard someone yelling for help.
FORTitude at 2013 Canadian National Dragonboat Championships
Turns out a man had been out for a row earlier in the day and had grown tired. When he went to remove one of his oars before pulling up to the dock he fell in to the water without a lifejacket on.
Jan Choquette was standing on the dock at the time. She is not part of Abreast In A Boat, but she is on a dragon boat team.
“I heard a man saying ‘help, I need help’ and I turned around and saw a man floundering in the water there,” she said.
She yelled at the people nearby for help and to call 9-1-1 and that is when her water-safety training kicked in.
“I pointed,” she said. “I kept my eye on him and I pointed at him, and that’s one thing that we’re told all the time and drilled every time we go out in the boat.”
Choquette said a man on the dock at the time also jumped into the water to swim towards the drowning man.
“And then the man, as he was floating down the river a bit, he kept yelling ‘help, help me’ and I called out to him time and again ‘help is coming, hold on,’” she said, “and I just kept walking and then I saw the fellow dive into the water, swim towards him and that’s when I saw you guys paddling down [the] river.”
The ‘you guys’ were the FLCC Fort-itude, who had heard the man’s cries from hundreds of metres away.
“And I said to our crew, ‘somebody needs help, let’s go’,” said Fort-itude member Heather Innes. “It was like doing a 500-metre race, from the other side of the bridge, coming down.”
As the group of women reached the two men in the water they threw them their extra lifejackets, their First Aid kit and a few lines.
“The girls on the team were so amazing,” said member Juanita Peglar.
“The fellow in the water was so cold, so weak, we tried to get him into the boat but he just said ‘I can’t do anything, I can’t do anything’,” she said.
They towed the two men to the shore where they sat for about 10 minutes until they began to feel stronger, and then they brought them to the main dock alongside the river.
By that time the paramedics had arrived.
“It was a scary thing,” said Peglar.
Choquette said it was a very emotional day and without all the people coming together to save this man the outcome could have been very different.
“The fellow who was in the water, he was not staying afloat,” she said. “He wasn’t able to swim, his head was going under the water, I think had it been in many more moments he wouldn’t have made it.”
Deas, Fortitude, Richmond and Rocky Point crews joined 80 teams July 6 – 8, 2012 at the very popular Save-On-Foods Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival in Maffeo Sutton Park. It was a first for the Rocky Point crew as a whole but definitely won’t be the last.
This was the 10th Annual Festival and since 2003 has raised nearly $500,000 for the purchase of diagnostic equipment for Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. This Festival donates 100% of the net proceeds to the Nanaimo Hospital Foundation to assist in improving the diagnostic-treatment process of Breast Cancer patients. They state on their website that this Festival is where “paddlers are united in the fight to beat cancer”.
This year’s theme was The Sixties – The Hippy Phase so Friday evening we donned our best “flower power” hippie garb and descended upon the waterfront for an evening of fun, dining and dancing at the Survivors Dinner. Our BCS host teams from Nanaimo put on an outstanding dinner supplied by Save-On-Foods for 11 breast cancer teams under a very large white tent decorated very boldly. At 9pm all BCS teams, many other paddlers and on-lookers headed down to the Sway-a-Lana Lagoon at the water’s edge for the sunset Candles for Courage ceremony. A lone piper led the way from our dining area and played while we all walked the circle around the lagoon with our candles lit in a small plastic bowl. We thought of those we wanted to remember and let the candles float away on the lagoon.
Saturday and Sunday were days for racing with 3-4 lanes per race, challenging water but sunny, sunny days… yahoo! We shared the water way with power boats, sailboats, paddle boards and seaplanes – therefore the challenging water. The Athletes Village tents were all in a grassy area of the park with shade trees. Food vendors, merchandise, a kid’s zone, entertainment bandstand and beer garden rounded out the outer area. On Saturday the women’s races didn’t start until 11:30am – the organizers do this on purpose so we can all enjoy the survivors dinner the night before! Our two Saturday races were mostly for seeding and Sunday’s races were very exciting to watch and race.
The standings for AIAB crews overall were:
Abreast with Fortitude – 2nd in the Women’s Gold Final A
Abreast Deas Divas – 1st in the Women’s Gold Final B
Abreast at Rocky Point – 3rd in the Women’s Gold Final B
Abreast in Richmond – 1st in the Women’s Silver Final B
In the Breast Cancer Races:
Abreast with Fortitude – 1st in the A category
Abreast Deas Divas – 1st in the B category
Abreast at Rocky Point – 3rd in the B category
Abreast in Richmond – 2nd in the C category
The highlight of the whole weekend was the 8 team raft (the other three teams lined the wharf and shore) for the Carnation Ceremony. While waiting to get organized we were given our carnations, bottles of water and were the recipients of buckets of water thrown on us to keep us cool!
We thank the organizers, participants, Peter the crew Marshall and most especially the volunteers (in which Sunday was ALL volunteers). Every person had such enthusiasm and big smiles… they treat the BCS teams very well.
I am so impressed with all of you who were able to come out today… what a great job and great teamwork from everyone! We did get a bit soggy but hey… we’re used to it!
A huge THANK YOU to our sister paddlers and their families from DEAS who joined us! We truly appreciate your support.
To all of our dragon-bearers you were great with your “serpentining” which definitely wowed the spectators. From Marie’s vantage point in the front car she could hear the spectators getting excited and saying “Hey, there’s a dragon coming!”
And I know our chant was new to many of you but you sounded like you’d been doing it forever! Our banner-bearers, walkers and drivers did a wonderful job and we were all able to get our word out and show the crowd that there is life after breast cancer!
Thank you so much to all the AIAB members/paddlers, family and friends for their support and help today.
Spring was definitely in the air at our Season’s Opener which took place on March 18, 2012 at Van Dusen Gardens in Vancouver. Thank you to Evelyn Smoliak and her merry band of volunteers who set up a wonderful spread of goodies brought by AIAB members. There was a wonderful assortment of teas and coffee for the caffeiners. The attending Novices entered to the song “Pretty Woman” and were introduced by “Original” Carol Dale to loud applause.
The highlight, of course, was the Spring Hat competition. First Place was awarded to Karen Sabourin of the Deas Divas. In Second Place was Alina Oleksiak of Richmond and Third Place went to Geri Madden of Rocky Point. Please note that the winners were all Novices!
A good time was had by all – great to visit with old and new friends. Another special start to the 2012 Paddling Season.