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.

AIAB Rio Tinto 2014

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

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

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”.

Written By: Linda Hopwo

 CIBC Breast Cancer Challenge Race Times

Abreast With FORTitude     2:16.30

Abreast At Rocky Point       2:23.50

Abreast Deas Divas               2:23.77

Abreast Up The Creek           2:37.78

Flower Ceremony at Women's Regatta

Flower Ceremony at Women’s Regatta

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 With Deas Divas BC Challenge Winners!

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

Carving the Dragon’s Head and Tail

Written By: Deb Legree

This carving workshop was a pilot project; the brainchild of well-known carver Eric Neighbour who has taught carving to more than 4,000 people. The project originated from watching the dragon boats on race day, looking so proud with their beautiful heads and tails. Eric thought: “I bet some of those teams would like to make their own boat decorations”. Thoughts and Observations from a Member of the AIAB Carving Team

AIAB Dragon Head Carving

AIAB Dragon Head Carving

The Roundhouse Community Centre in Yaletown was the site chosen for this event. Four groups of tables were set up for the participating teams: Women on Water, Abreast In A Boat, The Wong Way and Gung Haggis Fat Choy. This was to be a three-hour session to decide on a design, a carving shift schedule and general questions. All I could think was “My lord those tree trunks are HUGE and how are we going to carve anything in a week with only a chisel and a wooden mallet. We hashed around some ideas, came up with a plan, and those who could draw started putting a design on paper. We chose the two logs to be carved and those of us who were better at making lists dealt with the shift schedule of 18 members. At the end of the session we had our drawings up on the wall, our logs labelled with our names, and the new box of chisels all laid out. We were excited. Well, Monday morning at 9 am sharp I was on the doorstep of the Port Moody Library getting books on “How to Carve”! Those logs were not “roughed out” like I thought they would be. Books, gloves, goggles in hand I started my first shift. Eric our instructor and master carver, was very helpful and excited himself. We found that chiseling away at the dry logs was a lot easier than expected – that is, when the mallet hit the chisel instead of our hands! This was not true though when we came across a knot. The sawing part was definitely an aerobic workout. CBC Television filmed and interviewed for a while and arranged to come back on Friday to see the “finished” product. I smiled at that positive thought. On Tuesday Jo, Anne and I did a marathon of seven hours with other members coming in on their shifts. We were really starting to get the hang of this. The basic shapes were starting to happen and the detailed designs drawn on the logs. Chris had brought in a fabulous drawing of the head with measurements included – obviously the artists in the group.

Carving of the AIAB Dragon Head

Carving of the AIAB Dragon Head

Over the course of the next three days absolutely wonderful things started to happen. We went from “Oh my – 8 hours of chiselling and we’ve only cut out a 10-12 inch two-by-four at one end” to extravagant designs we never thought possible. As each person started her new shift it was so exciting to see what had been done the day or two before. Scales, fins, eyes, tails were all forming to the delight of everyone. The fancy chisels were out now along with files and other objects that looked impressive to me. The friendship that had formed between the four dragon boat teams was very noticeable when I went back on Friday night, our last night. The almost completed dragon head and tail then went home to be finished with ears, horns, special marine paint and varnish.

A Legacy Garden: A Place to Remember and to Celebrate
Sally Haugen, AIAB Alumna and Sunshine Dragons Abreast, Sechelt, British Columbia, Canada

Ten years ago Abreast In A Boat (AIAB) paddlers Sandy Smith, Sharon Eakins, Jane Frost and I went to Toronto to participate in the 2001 Dragons Abreast Festival and Conference. Sharon and I attended an important workshop on remembering those whom we have lost to breast cancer. It was led by Doug Graydon, an Anglican priest who had worked with HIV/AIDS patients. We came home thinking what could we do to remember paddlers we had lost?

AIAB Garden in 2012

AIAB Garden in 2012

AIAB Garden, 2012

AIAB Garden, 2012

We walked every inch of the shores of False Creek, the waterway in Vancouver where this breast cancer dragon boat paddling started. We thought about placing a bench there. We thought about public art. We pictured a series of bronzed dragon boat seats with paddlers in all the seats but one. Then reality set in. There were no bench sites left in False Creek. The cost of an interactive statue was prohibitive. The approval process for public art was overwhelming so we wandered back to Alder Bay in False Creek, where we launch our boats. And there, right in Alder Bay, we realized the perfect spot for a Legacy Garden was the grassy knoll overlooking our dock. It even had fuchsia rhododendrons in the spring. With the support of the Vancouver Parks Board we were able to place a plaque in “our” garden and to this day the garden continues to sprout pink and fuchsia flowers.

The plaque reads:
“In April 1996, here in Alder Bay, 24 women who had been treated for breast cancer slipped into a dragon boat and together raised their paddles for the first time. A legend was born. A lively, vigorous sport has become a passion for those who have experienced this disease all around the world.” 

“The Legacy Garden is dedicated to the paddlers, their families and friends, the sponsors and the community who have given unstinting support.”

We return frequently to remember our paddling friends, sadly far too many of them, including Sandy Smith and Sharon Eakins.
We also celebrate as this photograph illustrates. This spring Dr. Don McKenzie is pictured with AIAB crew members who were celebrating ten years since they began paddling together. A time and place to reconnect with old friends and to celebrate the happy moments. I understand Dragons Abreast (Toronto) remembers their friends with a memorial bench in Humber Park West. Have other teams found ways to remember?

For more information, please visit:,%20IBCPC%20newsletter.pdf