A beautiful warm sunny afternoon in Sarasota, Florida and 2500 survivors are now all wearing the same flamingo pink tee shirts for the opening ceremonies. Try finding your crew mates when everyone is dressed the same!! The dragon boat I am standing beside is about to be filled with ice to chill the cocktails….now that’s a novel use for a dragon boat at your next crew party!
No sooner are we all seated for the opening ceremonies and everyone starts jumping up and down, standing on chair seats and waving shirts and flags as 2 mini drones fly overhead filming us all….wow have we gone high tech…I think I’ll put one on my shopping list as they can’t be any more complicated to use than my iPhone, or can they? lol…
Pink Fireworks Sarasota
Dr Susan Love gave a very captivating key note address on her plans to have an “army of women” – like us…help to eradicate breast cancer. Please visit her web site and signup for the surveys at www.armyofwomen.org
And the evening ended at sunset with some amazing fireworks….Tomorrow racing begins….stay tuned!
Saturday, Oct 25th
After our 3rd place finish in our second race of the day we are celebrating in the beer garden! The team is pumped! Pink fire trucks, lots of great shopping and a full buffet lunch round out a perfect day. Dr. Don arrived today and we all got hugs, and yes… he stills knows many of our names! So nice to visit again with so many paddling sisters from previous trips to Singapore, Australia, Peterborough, Israel, London, England, Malaysia and Dublin.
Prior to the Parade of Nations we have my spouse guy to be our goalie in the Hyatt lobby and we practice our hockey moves and singing….you all know it….”it’s the good old hockey game, the best game in the land”. We are bused out to the Lakewood Ranch area where we stand around for well over an hour before the parade starts in this new residential area with a small town square. We are the Canadian Women’s Olympic Hockey team, wearing red and white shirts, carrying hockey sticks, waving white towels and flags. The parade is a very short 20 minute route with family and supporters lining the way. After the parade is was total mayhem to find somewhere in the village to have some dinner, watch some of the street bands and then back on a bus to the Hyatt.
The best hotel story that we dare put in print so far….goes to Eleanor. While showering in her 3rd floor room in the lovely Hyatt hotel she encountered a new friend in the shower….a little frog somehow found its way up to their room! I’ll bet it hitched a ride in one of Lenki’s many shopping bags! lol…Off to bed for me….bus leaves for the race site at 7am sharp!!
Sunday, Oct 26th
Abreast In A Boat – Sarasota Team
On site at Nathan Benderson Park just as the sun comes up. The weekend has gone by way too fast. Our composite crew is in the “C” division semifinals and we have 2 races today. Karen and Lenki will be representing our AIAB crew in the Sandy Smith Global Race later in the afternoon. Meanwhile it’s tent city madness…everyone running around to find the perfect team shirt that they want to swap for, some last minute shopping and picture taking. Our Capt- Cathy Marr along with the crew pays a visit to the 2 host teams to present some thank you gifts from all of us. Kim Bonomo and Save Our Sisters from Miami and Paula Jennings and Pink Dragon Ladies from Tampa have put on the best participatory regatta to date and were most appreciative of our gifts.
The final A division races are completed and Knot Abreast from Lake Ontario is the winner! Way to go Canada! These 8 boats are now sitting at the end of the race course ready to join the 10 mixed crews taking part in the Sandy Smith Global Race. Our first AIAB president Brenda H. is giving the commentary on the history of the SSGR while all the teams and supporters line the white sandy beach to watch and listen. Who knew at the time that the mini drones would capture this precious moment with a beautiful photo taken overhead capturing the 18 dragon boats and onlookers on the shore line and it’s gone viral around the world in minutes!
Off to the closing ceremonies and the afternoon sun is beating down on us. Our founder, Dr. Don is the guest speaker for the closing ceremonies and congratulates us all on being survivors, warriors and athletes that have really made a difference in how those diagnosed with breast cancer can go on to lead active healthy lives. Dr. Don reminds us again to look to other parts of the world to spread our message.
It’s a wrap…we are all tired out and heading back to the Hyatt for a quick swim before our final wrap party at Florida’s oldest restaurant, the Columbia on Lido Key. Tonight is our last night together as a team as many are flying home in the morning and others are off on new adventures along the beautiful Gulf Coast of Florida. It’s been a truly amazing few days with a beautiful group of “sisters” from our crew and those from around the world that continue to live life to the fullest.
PS- Rumor mill has it that the 5th participatory regatta will be in Ravenna, Italy in 2017 or 2018……any bets???
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.
Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival – June 21 & 22, 2014
Could it get any better than our weekend at Rio Tinto? The sun shone for three glorious days and the temperature was perfect for paddling. Just enough sun and warmth to dry off after fast paced races where paddles slashed through the choppy waters. It is hard to believe that those little water ferries could make such a swell!
Although we didn’t have our traditional Flower Ceremony this year, we did get to experience our sense of “we are all in it together” with the paddle arch. I am sure we all remembered those who have been touched by cancer in our own way, either through hugging our seat mates, or by just taking a minute of silence on the start line to reflect.
Abreast In A Boat at Rio Tinto Alcan 2014
The CIBC Breast Cancer Challenge Race was so much fun. FORT-itude’s fitness regime paid off and they dominated for first place. Rocky Point and Deas played tag throughout the race with Rocky Point winning by a dragon’s nose for second place.
AIAB Crews ~ CIBC Breast Cancer Challenge
One of my favourite experiences at the races, is joining in with FORT-itude in their pre-race warm up. Juanita is so full of energy and she makes it fun and enticing. Who doesn’t like dancing Gangnam style? One by one all the breast cancer teams join in until it is almost like a “flash mob”, once again demonstrating we are all in this together.
Paddle Arch ~ Rio Tinto Alcan
It is pretty empowering to see the mass of pink showing to everyone that we take this sport seriously!
The Information Booth was a huge success, as usual. Thank you to Sheila Blair, Bunny Rosse, and everyone who volunteered to help set up, man, and take down the booth. A big thank you to the RTA organizers who gave us a prime location for the booth and who helped it run without a hitch!
Paddling in the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival was a great place to show thousands of people who we are, and to demonstrate that you can live a full and active life after a breast cancer diagnosis! We all paddled in “OUR RACE AGAINST BREAST CANCER”.
Spring has come, and it looks that it will stay forever! Green yards, flowers, birds are all a testimony of that. With Spring also arrived the beating of the drums, the drums of the dragon boat season. This is something that we, breast cancer survivors carry deep in our hearts. Some of us spend leisure time in the water, paddling together, enjoying the warm sunsets, or the crazy rain (it does not stop us!). Others train hard to be ready for the regattas. No matter how we paddle, we feel stronger than ever.
On May 24th women from different cities got together in Vancouver to celebrate their own regatta, Women’s. There were about 48 crews having fun and enjoying this fight between clouds and sun, and wearing funny costumes. One o’clock was the time for the eight Breast Cancer Survivors teams to get together at the Breast Cancer Challenge race. After the race, we gathered our boats together to enjoy the Flower Ceremony. We all know what this ceremony is about. It was also a moment to think about how breast cancer changed our lives and how strong we became, while waving pink carnations embracing hope for a cure.
Abreast Deas Divas, Scotiabank Breast Cancer Challenge race winners with Lynn Weber, Scotiabank Rep
This picture shows the big smiles and happiness of the Breast Cancer Challenge winners, Abreast Deas Divas. It also represents the smiles of the eight crews that beyond the regatta, could grant that they are all winners! Winners in Life!
I deeply hope these will be the smiles of all ladies around the world once breast cancer is no longer a threat in women’s life!
Written By: Adriana Bartoli, Paddler with Abreast Deas Divas
Abreast With Rocky Point Marshalling at Spring Knock Outs
9 years ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer it would never have crossed my mind that such a scary negative event would lead me to such a great positive opportunity in my life as dragon boating.
Dragon boating has changed my life and given me opportunities that I would never have had. I have raced in Malaysia, the Queens Jubilee and the Lake District. I have met interesting and lovely people that I would never have had the opportunity to meet.
Dragon boating is a team sport. Everyone must give all that their physical abilities allow them to give. Saturday our team, Rocky Point did just that. We raced 4 times back to back, every person on that boat, reached, dug deep and gave all that they had to give. I am proud to be part of this team.
The rain didn’t dampen the spirits of our crews paddling in the Women’s Regatta this year! You can see from the smiles on our faces we were having a great time. And what a day of racing! And weather! And fascinators! And boas! And Rocky Balboas! And dragon boats.
Congratulations to the Fort for winning the Breast Cancer Challenge Race at 2:49.91!
The below Video is of the Breast Cancer Challenge Race.